An administrative review is currently underway for bear researcher Dr. Lynn Rogers, 74, who filed a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for declining to renew his permit to collar black bears. The DNR claims that Rogers is creating a dangerous situation by using unorthodox methods such as feeding bears by hand. The bear researcher claims that the DNR is unfairly declining him the permit over unrelated disagreements, and that he does not need the department’s permission to carry out his studies.
Rogers is the principal biologist of the Wildlife Research Institute. As a notable wildlife research biologist, he has authored multiple scientific articles, and was the 1988 recipient of the US Forest Service’s Quality Research Award. Rogers and staff have had a long-standing agreement with the Minnesota DNR to conduct studies near Eagle’s Nest Township, a deal made when their relationship was less tumultuous. Now, the department claims that the veteran researcher is using unsafe methods, such as feeding, to study black bears without tranquilizers. According to the Associated Press, the DNR believes that these practices are not only dangerous to Rogers, but also creates a public safety hazard.
Wildlife officials always warn against feeding wild animals, especially bears. Even discarded food in dumpsters should be carefully stored to discourage bears, in order to prevent bears’ associating humans with food. This causes the animals to lose their fear of humans and wander closer to homes, provoking conflict. On Monday, Administrative Law Judge Tammy Pust heard testimony from residents who said that the bears Rogers was working with —identified by their collars— have grown increasingly bold.
“I would love to go for a walk down my driveway,” Shelly Beyer, who owns a summer cabin near Eagle’s Nest Township, told The Pioneer Press. “I would love to explore the woods with my kids, or go picking berries and all the things I did when I was a kid up there.”
Rogers countered that the residents of Eagle’s Nest have been feeding bears for decades. It is a key reason why he chose the area to do his research.
“It was a neighborhood that discovered a way to peacefully co-exist with bears,” he said.
Rogers states that while bears who linger around human residences could be a danger, it is fear and lack of understanding that causes conflicts. Rogers has long advocated a more tolerant approach to bear policies, and can commonly be seen walking or resting with his collared bears. The researcher had been referred to as the “Jane Goodall” of black bears, referencing the famed British primatologist.
Rogers and his staff are allowed to keep several collars in operation for the duration of the dispute, but have been ordered to shut down the popular “den cams” that have been broadcasting on the internet. The proceedings that began on Monday could last for about a week before Pust issues her report.
Rogers was also the subject of several documentaries. You can see the introduction of one below: