Hope became famous in 2010 when her mother Lily gave birth to her. Lily and her family were part of a study by US biologist Dr Lynn Rogers and featured in the documentary film, The Bear Family and Me.
Recreational hunting is permitted by licence in Minnesota, 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.
“Unless there is some specific identification, we don’t know if it is Hope or not,” said DNR spokesperson Chris Niskanen. However 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.
Dr Rogers has spent the past 45 years studying black bears, and is regarded as a leading authority on their behaviour and ecology.