Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
When I was little, my family and I traveled to a tiny resort tucked away in a northern Wisconsin forest. You might miss the place as you drive along Twin Lakes Road. Low-hanging branches veil its entrance. A sharp right turn down a winding gravel trail leads to five cabins set near the edge of an inland lake. Each cabin has a big picture window and a sign: DON’T FEED THE BEARS. I loved the bears. Almost every night a female bear came with her cubs, and I sat by the window watching them forage and wallow in the water.
I renewed my fascination for bears this year when I discovered the web site for the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota. The NABC is a non-profit organization that studies wild black bears, their role in ecosystems and their relationship with humans. The study bears wear radio collars that allow them to be tracked by a GPS system. An amazing researcher named Lynn Rogers, also called “The Bear Whisperer,” collars the bears. They trust him. “It’s me bear,” he calls to them, and they come.
On a cold January morning, a live web cam on the NABC website streamed video of a female bear, named Lily, as she gave birth to a single cub they called Hope.
Drama surrounded Hope from the beginning. In May, not long after the pair left their den, Lily deserted Hope twice. The second time they were separated for six weeks. Rogers worried. Could the cub survive on her own?
A feisty little bear, Hope always did the unexpected. Lynn Rogers and his associates tried to keep track of her as she scampered through the thick forest, and when she was big enough he fitted her with a radio collar. Rogers set out pans of formula similar to Lily’s breast milk hoping to keep her alive. Hope lapped it up. She also found food on her own, and at night she slept high in white pine trees, all alone.
Thousands of nature lovers follow the adventures of Lily and Hope on Facebook. They were relieved and thrilled when mother and daughter reunited on thier own and stayed together. As I write this, Lily and Hope glean the last of the forest’s foods and prepare to retreat to their den for winter.
Every day, Lily and Hope face drama in the forest: extreme weather changes, food shortages, dangerous predators and now hunters. It’s bear hunting season in Ely, and Rogers has tied colorful ribbons to the research bears’ collars to make them visible to hunters and flag that they are study bears. Will Lily and Hope survive to roam the forest for another summer? Only God knows the answer.
There is a verse in Leviticus 25:19, Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. I think of that as I follow the adventures of Lily and Hope. God is like Lynn Rogers, caring for us, putting ribbons on our collars when hunters threaten and providing us with formula when there is no milk. God is our gracious provider, always watching us through His picture window. And best of all, He’s never afraid to feed the bears.
On September 12, 2010, watch a replay of “Bearwalker of the Northwoods,” a Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom documentary about Lynn Rogers, on Animal Planet.
Read more about Lynn Rogers and his research bears at The North American Bear Center website.
Follow Lily the Black Bear on Facebook.