World famous black bear Hope is believed killed

Hope the bear (c) Graham MacFarlane Biologists fear the worst for Hope

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The bear "born on the internet" is believed to have been shot and killed by a hunter in Minnesota, US.

Hope was recognised internationally after her birth was filmed and broadcast live via a webcam in 2010.

The black bear and her mother Lily were subjects of a study by US biologist Dr Lynn Rogers and featured in the BBC documentary The Bear Family and Me.

Recreational hunting is permitted by licence in the state but hunters are asked not to shoot collared bears.

Dr Rogers and his colleagues at the Wildlife Research Institute were tracking 13 bears, each wearing identifying collars.

Using the GPS tracker in Hope's mother Lily's collar, the researchers confirmed her visits to a known hunter's bait site, but they could not account for the rest of the family.

The biologists have been working with the Minnesota Department for Natural Resources (DNR) who licence hunting in the state.

A hunter has now contacted the research team to confirm that he killed a yearling female in the area on 16 September.

Hope tries to befriend Gordon Buchanan

"Unless there is some specific identification, we don't know if it is Hope or not," said DNR spokesperson Chris Niskanen.

But Ms Mansfield told BBC Nature that Hope was the only yearling female in the area without a collar.

According to Mr Niskanen there are upwards of 19,000 bears in the state and a "sustainable harvest" via hunting is permitted as a means of controlling the population.

"As far as [we are] concerned if a hunter shot a bear in that area and shot it legally that's pretty much the end of the story," he explained.

Hope was born in 2010. As part of their behavioural research, the team placed a camera in Lily's den and filmed Hope's birth - a labour that lasted 22 hours and resulted in a single cub.

Wildlife cameraman Gordon Buchanan filmed Hope and Lily from close quarters for a documentary later in the year.

During filming, Hope was separated from her mother but the two were eventually reunited.

Black bear Lily Mother Lily was the subject of a groundbreaking film

Dr Rogers has spent the past 45 years studying black bears, and is regarded as a leading authority on their behaviour and ecology.

Rather than tranquilising the bears, he has habituated them to his presence, a technique which allowed him to approach Lily's den and set up the webcam that filmed the birth.

Lily and her cubs, including Hope, are the subjects of a Facebook group that has been "liked" by more than 130,000 people.

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