Rogers stops radio-collaring bears for research

Rogers feeds June by hand
Wildlife Research Institute biologist Lynn Rogers hand feeds June, a 300-plus-pound pregnant black bear, on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 in the woods near Ely, Minn.
Derek Montgomery for MPR

Controversial bear researcher Lynn Rogers said he has removed radio collars from bears involved in a long-running research project near Ely, Minn.

Rogers' decision posted on the Wildlife Research Institute's website Sunday to remove the collars is the most recent step in a dispute between Rogers and the state DNR. The agency has argued that Rogers' practice of hand-feeding the bears made the animals more dangerous to the public.

"It was kind of an ongoing debate here because there's pros and cons, but over the last couple years, the punitive restrictions that the DNR put upon us just really ruined the scientific value of our study," Rogers, the principal biologist at the Wildlife Research Institute, said.

A state judge agreed in May with the DNR's decision to not renew Rogers' permit to track bears with radio collars.

Chief Administrative Law Judge Tammy Pust said that Rogers' hand-feeding of bears in the Eagles Nest Township area southwest of Ely constituted "a risk to public safety" by habituating the bears to human contact, and conditioning them to associate people with food.

The DNR first issued Rogers a permit to collar bears in 1999. But in June 2013 the agency decided not to reissue it, because of public safety concerns, and because of what it said was Rogers' failure to produce peer-reviewed studies based on his research permit.

A DNR manager was set to make the final decision on the case in the coming months. Rogers said he'll appeal if the ruling is against him.

Reporter Dan Kraker contributed to this story.

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