Monday, February 28, 2011

Another Strike Against Bear Research

As stated elsewhere on the blog, Lynn Rogers of Minnesota's North American Bear Center has done more to change people's attitudes about black bears than anyone else, his work often being compared to Jane Goodall's and Dian Fossey's. His efforts to put a webcam in the den of a pregnant black bear has become a worldwide sensation, a sensation that's only gaining strength now that Rogers has established two den webcams for the world to watch this winter.

For years, Rogers has been pleading with the Minnesota DNR to provide special protections for the radio-collared black bears that are the subjects of his work. Attempts to work with hunters to spare the bears has had its successes and its failures. While many hunters have agreed to cooperate and spare collared bears, others have seemingly declared war against Lynn and his work. Signs posted by Lynn politely asking hunters to spare radio-collared bears have often been torn down, leaving other hunters unaware of the request and a number of study bears have been lost as a result.

After the Lily the Black Bear phenomenon took flight last year, many fans of Lily on Facebook pushed for Lynn to ask the DNR to illegalize the hunting and killing of radio-collared bears to prevent the same fate from befalling Lily and her cub, Hope. Lynn ultimately chose not to pursue this option, hoping instead to work with hunters and educate them about the necessity of research bears. The end result did not go quite as planned. In September of 2010, a study bear was killed and the bloody radio collar mailed anonymously to the DNR by the hunter. It's an action that many feel was done for spite and one that prompted Lynn to finally move to help illegalize the hunting and killing of research bears. Despite noble efforts, however, the Minnesota DNR announced this morning that they will not offer special protection for radio-collared bears, as you can read about here:

As opposed to this decision as I am, I can't say I'm really surprised by it. After spending as much time as I have studying and researching bears, I've seen more spiteful attacks against bear advocates and researchers than I can even keep track of and this is just one more in a very long and growing list. What is it about bears that instills such a strong negative backlash, particularly from wildlife managers? Is it really just lack of education or is there something more? Considering the small number of radio-collared bears and the benefits to science that they provide, I don't see what the problem is here.

Now it seems the question is becoming not "how do we get the DNR to protect the bears", but "how do we protect the bears from the DNR?"

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