Minn. bear researcher stripped of permit allowed to appeal
By Sam Cook
Forum News Service
ST. PAUL -- Famed Minnesota bear researcher Lynn Rogers remains under orders to remove radio collars from bears he’s studying by the end of the month, but he will be allowed to appeal the state order.
Rogers met Monday with Gov. Mark Dayton and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr to discuss the revocation of his DNR permit. Typically, Landwehr said, there is no appeal from that kind of decision, but Landwehr has decided to let Rogers present his case to an administrative law judge.
“I do want an opportunity to present our side,” Rogers said in a telephone interview Monday.
Landwehr said the July 31 deadline Rogers faces for removing the radio-transmitter collars from the study bears remains in effect. Currently, Rogers said, he has radio collars on 10 bears.
Asked after Monday’s meeting if he intended to comply with the July 31 deadline, Rogers said, “I have to do what they say.”
In withdrawing Rogers’ permit, the DNR says Rogers’ hand-feeding of bears makes them too accustomed to humans. The agency also says Rogers has failed to publish his research.
Rogers denies both claims. He says his research from 1996 to 2005 shows that nuisance bear complaints were lower in Eagle’s Nest Township near his institute than elsewhere in the state. He says he has published papers, but Landwehr said those are older papers not related to his current bear studies.
Rogers became known worldwide through Facebook and other media after placing live-action cameras in bear dens to record the female bears at the time they give birth to cubs and to follow the bear family in the den. Most famous is Lily, who gave birth three separate years on webcam.
Rogers was asked after Monday’s meeting if he planned to file for an injunction against the DNR’s decision.
“We are, of course, weighing all of our options,” Rogers said. “My real feeling is, at 74, I just really don’t want to get distracted with something that takes all of your time, trying to survive.”
The DNR had told Rogers on June 28 that the agency would not renew his permit to radio-collar bears. The DNR ordered him to have all radio collars removed from study bears by July 31 and to no longer put cameras in bear dens.
Rogers and his associate, Sue Mansfield, radio-collar and feed wild bears as part of activities at their Wilderness Research Institute near Ely. The Wilderness Research Institute is a separate entity from Ely’s North American Bear Center, although Rogers is affiliated with the bear center as well.
Rogers had sought the meeting with the governor, saying that the move to revoke his permit would end his 46-year career in bear research. While Rogers uses food to befriend bears, he needs radio transmitter collars to find them in the woods.
A group of 14 people rallied in support of Rogers outside the Capitol at noon on Monday. The group was led by Dana Coleman, a Minneapolis teacher whose students tried to get the Minnesota Legislature to name the black bear as the state mammal.
Barb Soderberg, who lives about a mile from Rogers’ Wilderness Research Institute near Ely, had written Dayton urging him to back the DNR’s revocation of Rogers’ permit. She said the bears that Rogers and his groups feed have become a nuisance in the area.
“It’s to protect the people,” Soderberg said. “I don’t think folks outside the area realize, with this hand-feeding of bears, they (bears) come to people out on the road for food. They come to houses. … I’ve quit walking on the road because I get stalked by bears.
“My grandkids are going to be out here with an ice cream cone or a s’more, and a bear’s going to decide it wants it. What’s a little kid going to do?”
Rogers has had a DNR permit for his work since 1999. He most recently was allowed to collar up to 12 bears. A permit allowing Rogers to keep tame bears at the North American Bear Center is expected to be renewed.