Watching Lily the Bear with 4G LTE

Monitoring bear hibernation live with wireless technology.

By on April 9, 2013

Senior biologist Dr. Lynn Rogers of the Wildlife Research Institute is world renowned for studying wild black bears for more than 40 years in northern Minnesota. He has been called the “Bearman” for his walks with bears during the summer months, and while the bears hibernate in dens, he conducts research with the help of mobile technology. His research is able to continue with the support of Verizon and Digi International.

“The least studied area of a bear’s life is when they are in the den,” said Dr. Rogers. “We are now able to build solid scientific data by putting a den cam in place with a trusting bear and then observing the bears’ behavior without disturbing them.”

This is the fourth year that one particular bear, Lily, has had a camera in her den and the third time she has given birth to cubs. The first year her den was near electricity and landline service. But in 2011, when Lily decided to go deep into the woods, Verizon Wireless began providing its wireless broadband network to further Rogers’ research. This year, when Lily gave birth, researchers were able to watch through a camera uplink using Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network, which provided the low latency and bandwidth needed for high-definition video broadcasts.

“With high-definition video we are learning new details about the birthing process,” says Rogers. In addition to Lily, Verizon and Digi support a den cam in her sister Jewel’s den with two yearlings.

It’s important to Rogers that the public is educated to reduce the “misplaced fear” of black bears. The North American Bear Center provides a comprehensive look at black bears in North America and hosts the live Web stream of Lily’s and Jewel’s dens. Past videos of the dens are available through the bearstudy YouTube channel. So far, the highlight videos have received more than 3 million views.

Through the years, Lily has developed her own fan base with more than 146,000 likes on Facebook. Fans can also receive updates on Twitter by following @bearstudy. Now that the weather is warm, a second camera outside the den records Lily and her cubs’ activity as they venture in and out of the den.

Photo Credit: Jim Stroner