Some new and shocking information has come to light in the legal battle between black bear biologist Lynn Rogers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). If you haven't kept up with the case, Lynn attained worldwide recognition for installing a webcam in a bear's den in 2010 and broadcasting the live birth of a cub all across the internet. A massive following on Facebook and the placement of several more den cams have come about in the years since...including a falling out with the DNR, who seem just a wee bit jealous to me.
The Minnesota DNR's primary concern is that Lynn gains the trust of his bears by feeding them and, with the old mantra that "a fed bear is a dead bear" still alive and well, they fear these animals could become dangerous to people. I'm not going to go too deeply into the subject of feeding since I've already done that extensively on this blog and in my book, but I will recap one very important point: the "fed bear is a dead bear" mantra was coined by a couple of campground owners and applies more to that situation than it does to wildlife management. Bears who obtain food from campsites or roadside handouts from dozens of people never make a personal association with anyone and thus never develop a sense of respect or kinship with any one person and can become dangerous, whereas a bear fed by a specific individual makes a personal association with that person and typically does not carry that to anyone else. How else could so many people spend so much time (decades in some cases) feeding bears in their backyard without the animals ever posing a threat to them or anyone else? This is a radical notion and one not widely accepted, though it certainly should be, and this lady could benefit from learning a thing or two about it and about a bear's natural sense of curiosity: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_25216729/bear-researchers-controversial-methods-trial
Lynn was denied a renewal of his permit and told to stop broadcasting his den cams online (that really sounds like jealousy) and now a court battle has begun to determine if what Lynn is trying to do could create dangerous bears. The primary testimony against him was from the woman in the above article, though her claims don't hold much water in light of this: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_25275752/rogers-neighbors-deny-problems-bears
It quickly became apparent during the court proceedings that the DNR did not have as strong of a case as they had hoped. None of the department officials had ever even bothered to visit the North American Bear Center or the Wildlife Research Institute to observe firsthand what Lynn was doing, yet they seemed to have so much insight into what was "really" going on at those facilities. When it was revealed that the DNR was exaggerating the number of bear complaints - and attributing them to residents who later testified they had not made those complaints - it seemed to be the lowest point the DNR could possibly stoop to. That is, until this recent, stunning revelation: http://timberjay.com/stories/Bear-study-in-doubt,11395#comments
Lynn has lost several of his research bears to hunters over the years. Some were accidents and some appear to have been out of spite. Who can forget the eerie comments boasting of bear jerky when Hope (the cub whose online birth made headlines in 2010) was shot and killed, or the bloody radio collar that was placed in the mail after the disappearance of a research bear? But to think the Minnesota DNR is assisting hunters in deliberately targeting and killing Lynn's bears is about as sick as sick gets. The article above states that Lynn lost roughly 30 percent of his study animals this past hunting season (5.5 is the annual average) and Lynn and his assistant Sue Mansfield have found reason to believe that June, the latest radio-collared bear to be lost, was intentionally targeted. Lynn fears that this could mark the end of his research, though the court has not yet made a final ruling.
I don't think this is simply about misguided fear of bears. While it's true that old dogmas about feeding bears are still being thrown around, I think this has more to do with simple spite. The department has never been on equal footing with Lynn and they've finally taken it too far. At this link, you can find all the contact information for the Minnesota DNR: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/contact/index.html Write to them and let them know exactly what you think about this. Show them there is no evidence indicating that Lynn's bears pose a threat to anyone and that, in fact, the opposite should be true. Probably their minds are already made up, but that doesn't mean we have to be silent about it.