Skip to content

September 26, 2011


Losing Hope but Keeping Faith

Lily and Faith walking away without Hope
Lily and Hope as a small cub

Lily and Hope as a small cub

I am heartbroken.  As I sit and wait with countless others connected to the North American Bear Center’s(NABC) Lily the Black Bear project, I can’t help but feel forlorn. Losing Hope, the yearling daughter of Lily whose birth was viewed online by thousands is missing and presumed murdered by a hunter. I use the term murdered because that is how it feels to me. This hunter set out this season to kill Hope.

Lily and her family have over 132,000 Facebook fans and the news that she is missing has been devastating, prompting thousands of responses from other bear watchers like me, mourning the loss of our Hope.  The bear watchers are not just from the United States. Lily, Hope and Faith have a following in 132 countries and students at over 500 schools have been following the bear family. Many teachers in tears this

Lily Hope and Faith

Lily, Hope and Faith

weekend, were seeking advice of what to tell their  students about what happened to Hope and how to answer the questions that will be coming from the young minds. Why would this hunter shoot such a small bear?  Why Hope? Why indeed.

This is a question for which there is no answer. We as adults are perhaps used to bad news and accidents and yet we are struggling for closure. When Jason, Lily’s cub died earlier this spring, it was a huge loss and the bear community grieved his passing. The elementary children were sad but accepting of his untimely death.  But Jason’s death was not intentional.

Hope’s death, and all signs are pointing towards that being the case, was caused by some mean-spirited ego maniac toting a rifle.  This hunter knew the location where he set up his bait station was Lily and her cubs Hope and 8 month old Faith’s territory range. Lily is the only female collared bear with both a yearling and a young cub. Even level headed Dr. Rogers wonders if this hunter deliberately sought out Hope. This hunter may have posted messages on a Facebook page with only 50 fans called “Lily, a bear with a bounty” where the subject was “Hope jerky” or “Hope cooked in a crockpot.”

Hope Reaching for Faith

Hope reaching for Faith

I do not want to debate whether or not bear hunting should be legal. I don’t want to try to understand the mentality of the type of person that baits an animal, then waits in a tree only to shoot the animal for “fun”.

I had the privilege of meeting and learning from the Maasai in Kenya this past July. The Maasai live among the lions with a deep tradition of respect for wildlife. They do not kill for “fun”.  Even though I  don’t like it when the Maasai take down a lion,  I understand that the human-wildlife conflict is complicated. When an individual lion attacks your livestock, your boma, your family, there is a logical explanation as to why the warrior would have headed out with spear to end the life of the intruding lion.

This was not the case with Hope. This hunter  was not protecting his livestock, his home or his family.  He was not hunting bear because this bear may be the only food on the table to feed his children.  He was hunting for “sport”, for “fun”. I  believe that he knew exactly what he was doing when he set up the bait station and waited for Lily and her family.

A normal hunter, would not be bragging about Hope Jerky. A normal hunter would not have sought out with the intention of killing one particular bear.  A normal hunter would not derive pleasure from the suffering of so many. A normal hunter would have registered the bear within the 48 hour required timeframe.

This hunter is a lunkhead with no regard for science, education or for the future of wildlife in the region. He and

Lily looks heartbroken

Lily. A mother's heart is broken

his cronies  perhaps thought it would be a “hoot” to take down this beloved bear. You know, the bully on the playground type.   This hunter’s reason for killing Hope is untenable.

Others, that are  wannabe scientists,  are posting their comments on the Lily page about how they know more about bear research than Dr. Rogers has learned in his  over 30 years of dedicated study. Yea, that’s right peabrain, the next time you need a root canal just call a plumber.  No need for no “book learnin”.

It is the most difficult part of studying wild animals. We know that there will be losses. These losses are hard enough when they happen from natural causes.  The documentary film The Last Lions, will break your heart but leave you hopeful. The resilient lioness struggles to raise her cubs alone  against the odds in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Ma di Tau’s (“Mother of Lions”) battle is filmed  against the unspeakable beauty of the  Botswana landscape and leaves the viewer breathless. The only thing that saves one’s heart from  irreparable  damage is that the lives  lost in the film were  not at the hand of a greedy human.

The loss of Hope to a senseless killer is shattering and leaves us struggling for the faith to keep going, to believe  we can and do make a difference. At times, even at over 132,000 strong we feel outnumbered by the callous and cold-hearted. The Last Lion’s  tag line reads “The Most Powerful Force in Nature Is A Mother’s Love”, and Lily’s face tells it all doesn’t it? She is telling us what we already fear, that Hope is gone.

We will pick up the pieces, grieve in our own ways, and hopefully be ready to participate in the bear study when Lily and Faith enter their den. Until then, we wait for confirmation of what we already know. We have lost Hope, but we are keeping Faith.

Hope, Lily the Black Bear's Cub

Remembering Hope.

“Give me a song, a song for a sadness too vast for my heart, for a rage too wild for my throat.

From the poem “Bestiary”, by Joanna Macy

Lily and Faith walking away without Hope

Lily and Faith walking on without Hope


7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Angela
    Sep 27 2011

    This makes me absolutely sick. Seriously, I am physically ill from reading this. I will never understand the concept of intentionally taking a life, no matter if it is the life of an ant or of a human. To think that someone believes they have the right to decide when another being’s life should end is something my mind cannot comprehend. This hunter is the essence of pure evil and the reason people like you and me are needed. While this is truly devastating, we cannot lose faith and must continue on in our fight for animals like Hope.

  2. Mardee Dowdy
    Sep 27 2011

    Thank you – for this thoughtful and meaningful piece. A part of our grieving and healing is sharing and your experiences with Maasai people relate so well to our present circumstances.

  3. Mary
    Sep 27 2011

    Thank you for sharing what I have been feeling. We will continue to learn through Faith and respect for these beautiful animals.

  4. gwen king
    Sep 27 2011

    I feel this hunter has a dark soul and life will make its mark on him one day..Why kill this beautiful bear. Do you REALLY feel like a BIG MAN..You have no heart and I only hope you have no children to pass on this bad trait…
    Gwen King

  5. Malia Ragan
    Sep 27 2011

    Great post. Thank you for speaking out about this senseless act.

  6. tora
    Sep 27 2011

    Do you have any facts to back up all your assumptions? You don’t know anything about the hunter other than that he *or she!* hunts bear in that area.

    In fact, an article in the Grand Forks Herald’s Sept 27th issue refuted 98% of your unfounded claims.

  7. Joanne
    Oct 1 2011

    This is my opinion, just as you have your opinion.
    There is support that this hunter did in fact, know he was hunting in Lily’s family’s home range around Ely. There was only 1 female yearling in the area that this hunter chose to set up his bait station. That female was Hope.This hunter admitted that he knows Dr. Rogers, has spoken with him about the research bears, and knew that he set up his bait station in the research bears home range. If this hunter sincerely did not want to shoot Hope, all he had to do was not shoot any yearling bear that came to his bait station. At the time of day he killed her, he would have been able to tell she was a female yearling. He knew that Lily and her cubs were in that exact same area. This is compelling.
    The Star Tribune, Forbes, and several other media outlets support that the hunter knew exactly what he was doing. Not illegal, but certainly unethical, greedy, and untenable.
    We will need to agree to disagree. I have no desire to further an argument with you here. I am sure you can find a forum more suited to your viewpoint.

Share your thoughts, post a comment.


Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments