ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — With bear hunting season now two weeks away, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking hunters not to shoot radio-collared research bears.
DNR researchers are monitoring 35 radio-collared black bears, mostly in northwestern Minnesota. The bears have large, colorful ear tags or streamers hanging from the collars.
“Hunters near these areas should be especially vigilant for these valuable research bears,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research biologist. “These animals provide long-term data on reproduction and habitat use that is invaluable for bear management across the state.”
Bear research also is being conducted between Ely and Tower in northern St. Louis County, and it’s the life’s work of Dr. Lynn Rogers at the North American Bear Center. After more than four decades of research, Rogers’ n protective instincts kick in every fall as bear hunting season begins. He’ll soon post signs here welcoming hunters, but hopes they’ll also heed a warning.
“These bears are so valuable to science, education, and economics of the region, please spare them,” said Rogers.
Last year, Rogers says the lack of protection targeted his work, when a hunter shot Sarah, one of his 12 research bears.
“Sarah was wearing bright ribbons and we had photographed her with those ribbons on just the night before, and you cannot miss the ribbons,” said Rogers.
He says some see a tagged bear as a trophy. Last year, a Facebook page put a bulls eye on Lily, calling her a Bear with a Bounty.
It’s an unfair game to Rogers and the DNR, who hope in a new season, hunters hesitate.
“Any of these bears is irreplaceable. The worst ones to lose are the older bears we have long histories on. Each year these bears become more valuable because of their research history and the trust that builds every year,” said Rogers. “We are not asking them not to shoot any bears. Please spare the study bears,” he said.
Some people have called for a ban on shooting radio-collared bears. But the DNR said in some situations it may be impossible for a hunter to see the radio collar or ear tags. So, while discouraged, it is not illegal to shoot a collared bear.
The DNR is asking hunters who do shoot collared bears should call the DNR Wildlife Research office in Grand Rapids at 218-327-4146 or 218-327-4133.