In Minnesota's bear hunting season, which wraps up Sunday, far fewer bears were killed this year than last.
Hunters killed a little more than 2,000 bears this year, down about 25 percent from last year — even though there were roughly the same number of hunters. DNR biologists attribute the decline to an ample supply of wild food, which makes it more difficult for hunters to lure bears with bait.
Fewer research bears were killed as well. The DNR asks hunters not to shoot the roughly 30 bears it tracks with radio collars, but it's not illegal to do so.
DNR large carnivore team leader Dan Stark said only one was shot this season compared to nine last year. Stark said the hunter didn't see the fluorescent ear tags that mark research bears.
"Our focus is on ... notifying hunters that these bears are important to the research," Stark said. "For the most part, this year that has been pretty well accepted."
Hope, a research bear who became famous when her birth was broadcast online, was killed this season. She was not a DNR research bear though; she was being studied by biologists at the North American Bear Center in Ely, and had slipped out of her collar.
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