Sweet story, but Hope is just one bear

I'm a sucker for animal stories. Who isn't?

That's why I've been following the Lily the Bear saga for months. When the North American Bear Center near Ely began streaming a live internet feed of Lily in labor, I tuned in.

I thought it was cute when Hope the cub was born. And when mama and cub got separated, I followed the bear center's updates on Facebook.

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So of course I thought it was great when researchers found the cub and reunited Lily and Hope.

"When they saw and heard each other, the vocalizations were unbelievable," Researcher Lynn Rogers told the Duluth News Tribune. "You could tell she was saying, 'I want you back little cub.' "

A real tear-jerker, for sure.

But when you drop the emotion, you realize Hope is just one bear. What if the baby bear had died? Sad, but would that have been a tragedy?

There are about 20,000 black bears in Minnesota, according to a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources fact sheet. Legal hunting helps keep the population in check. The loss of one cub would not have been an ecological disaster.

The bear center does fine work ... and it's done a marvelous job using Lily to raise awareness of its mission, which is to "advance the long-term survival of bears worldwide by replacing misconceptions with scientific facts about bears, their role in ecosystems, and their relations with humans."

So if the Lily and Hope Saga helps more people learn to appreciate and understand black bears, that's great. But no one should think that luring Hope out of a tree did anything significant for the black bear population in Minnesota.