DNR cuts Ely bear researcher's permits
Ely bear researcher Lynn Rogers and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have locked horns again.
In late December, the DNR renewed Rogers' research permit to study black bears, but cut back the number of bears he may radio-collar from 15 to 12. The permit is valid only through June rather than December, so that future renewals won't have to be made when bears are denned and Rogers has den cameras deployed, DNR officials said.
"We continue to be concerned about the lack of scientific publications resulting from your research," DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said in the letter to Rogers that accompanied his permit.
The agency claims Rogers, who leads the nonprofit Wildlife Research Institute near Ely, has not written recent peer-reviewed papers that demonstrate "hypothesis testing, statistical tests or other protocols."
Rogers says he has published papers recently and that the reduction in collared bears from 15 to 12 is "devastating."
"It requires us to remove them (radio collars) from long-term study bears and not collar new bears," Rogers said.
Currently, Rogers said, his institute has 13 bears collared.
"It's hard to see how these restrictions benefit science, education or research," he said.
The DNR also claims that bears that are radio-collared and fed by the institute have created nuisance issues for people who own homes and cabins in the Eagle's Nest Lakes area between Ely and Tower. In his letter to Rogers, Landwehr said that "the increasing problems that study bears are causing local residents and visitors calls your methods and results into serious question."
Rogers and the DNR have been at odds for years over his research and education practices. Those practices allow researchers and visitors to locate and follow bears in the wild.
Rogers claims that many of the assertions the DNR makes in its recent letter are untrue.
"It's unbelievable," Rogers said. "There are so many errors, so many misinterpretations. And to have it made public, it seems like just an attempt to build a case, discredit us and turn public sentiment against us."
Rogers has been doing bear research since 1967 and started the Wildlife Research Institute near Ely in 1971. Adding to the ongoing controversy over Rogers' research, hunters have legally killed six radio-collared bears in Rogers' study area since 2005. Rogers has sought protection for the collared bears, but the DNR has not put them off-limits to hunters. The agency has said it does not want a hunter who unintentionally shoots a collared bear to suffer legal consequences.
Rogers claims he has done plenty of research.
"I've published four papers, three of them peer-reviewed, and an invited commentary since 2007," he said. "And I have a book coming out this spring, so I haven't been sitting here."
A fifth peer-reviewed paper is due to be published soon, Rogers said.
His research and the North American Bear Center in Ely, of which Rogers is chairman, have become high profile since Rogers began placing cameras in the bear dens in 2010. Internet fans from around the world have followed the birth of bear cubs in those dens. The North American Bear Center website attracts 6 million visitors a year, Rogers said.
Rogers' research has been the subject of BBC documentaries. His work with bears is followed by 500 school classrooms, he said.
DNR officials say that bear education can be done at the North American Bear Center and that Rogers' research should be separate from that.
"We issue research permits to scientists who have the intention of publishing their research. That's been the intent all along," Lou Cornicelli, the DNR's wildlife research manager, said. "The education piece can be done at the Bear Center."
Rogers said he is preparing a detailed response to the DNR's letter, which he hopes to send within a few days.