As the bear hunting season approaches, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking hunters to avoid shooting research bears that are marked with large, colorful ear tags and have radio-collars.
Researchers with the DNR are monitoring about 30 radio-collared black bears, most of them in the Chippewa National Forest between Grand Rapids and Bigfork. Others are in northwestern Minnesota, especially near Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area and the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, in and around Camp Ripley, and near the Cloquet Forestry Station.
“We’re asking hunters not to shoot these valuable research bears. As researchers, we’ve already spent a great deal of time and expense monitoring these bears,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research biologist. “We gain unique information from radio-collared bears over the long-term that aids in monitoring and managing the bear population.”
Many of the collars have global positioning units. The GPS coordinates are either uploaded to a satellite, or stored in the collar and downloaded by DNR researchers when they visit the bears in their dens.
“The bear’s coat often hides the collar, but all collared bears also have large, 2-by-2-inch, colorful ear tags. The cooperation of hunters who look for the ear tags and choose to support our on-going research efforts by passing on collared and tagged bears is greatly appreciated,” Garshelis said.
DNR officials recognize that a hunter may not be able to see a radio collar or ear tags in some situations. For this reason, taking a bear with a radio collar is not illegal.
The Minnesota bear hunting season opens Thursday, Sept. 1. Any hunters who do shoot a collared bear should call the DNR wildlife research office in Grand Rapids at 218-328-8874 or 218-328-8879. Any hunters who shoot a bear with small ear tags and no collar should indicate the ear tag numbers and color on the envelope when they submit bear teeth for required registration.
Find more information about bear hunting in Minnesota, along with photos of research bears, online at www.mndnr.gov/bear.