If watching a mother black bear writhe in labor in her wilderness lair before giving birth to furry little cubs appeals to you, it's time to log on to your computer.
Lily, the 4-year-old bruin of Internet fame whose birthing last winter of a single offspring dubbed Hope was broadcast worldwide, is believed to be with cub again. And this time, Ely bear researcher Lynn Rogers says twins or even triplets might debut as soon as Thursday in a North Woods reality show unlike any other.
"We have a camera in the den with a cell phone connection powered by solar panels sending the video from the woods near Ely to South Africa,'' Rogers said. "From there, it's broadcast throughout the world.''
More than 25,000 people watched Hope's arrival last January, preceded by 22 hours of labor. Since then the mother-cub duo has proved that star power needn't be fleeting.
During the past year, more than 125,000 Facebook friends have followed their soap-opera like travails -- their splits and rumored ones rival Brad and Angelina's -- even before sibling rivalry complicates their relationship.
"The big mystery is, 'How will Hope respond?'" Rogers said. "Usually, sows have cubs every other year, so there are no yearlings in the den when cubs are born. No one has ever witnessed this in the wild, and we're anxious to see what happens.''
Already some beliefs about denned black bears have been deflated, Rogers said, thanks to the camera inserted in Lily's and Hope's cedar-swamp den on Dec. 30. Hope, for example, is awake more often and for longer periods than Rogers expected. And lately she's nursed aggressively, due, perhaps, to the presence of colostrum in Lily's milk in advance of the arrival of newborns.
"Lily responds to each of Hope's cries,'' Rogers said. "We assumed at first Hope's suckling was for comfort, like a pacifier. But lately it's been every waking moment and very insistent. If she can't get access to a nipple, she bawls.''
Well protected from the region's deep snow, Lily and Hope are huddled beneath the exposed roots of fallen cedars, which tore up a canopy of soil when they toppled. They burrowed into their den on Oct. 20.
About 80 yards away is a shed housing the solar panels and batteries needed to transmit the video images from the den live cam, which can be seen at www.startribune.com/a147.