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Ely bear researcher Rogers looks for reprieve

Bear researcher Lynn Rogers of Ely looks up at a red pine tree for signs of recent bear use while looking for Hope the bear cub made famous on Facebook. (2010 file / Forum News Service)

By John Myers / Duluth News Tribune

Ely bear researcher Lynn Rogers is holding out hope that Minnesota officials might change their minds about not allowing him to collar bears any more.

Rogers told his legions of followers that he hopes to meet with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to persuade Dayton to reverse or modify a Department of Natural Resources decision to pull Rogers’ permits for bear work.

So far, however, no such meeting is scheduled. Matt Swenson, a spokesman for the governor, told the News Tribune that Dayton is resting after a hip injury and is not conducting any public meetings.

But Swenson said the governor’s staff could meet with Rogers.

“We have not yet received a meeting request from Mr. Rogers,” Swenson noted. “The Governor’s Office would be happy to meet with Mr. Rogers at any time.”

DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said there has been no meeting or discussions between the agency and Rogers since Friday’s letter informing Rogers and his associate, Sue Mansfield, that they could no longer put collars on bears or place cameras in bear dens after July 31. Rogers said the move will end his 46-year career in bear research.

Rogers’ supporters have begun stocking a legal fund with contributions, and as of Tuesday afternoon they had donated $7,166. His supporters also have compiled some 4,700 signatures protesting the DNR’s actions.

Rogers posted on the blog for his nonprofit group, the Wildlife Research Institute, that his supporters “are coming through with strength that is much appreciated and giving us hope.”

The center reported that the Ely City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night supporting its research and urging the state to reverse its stance.

“We are starting to explore more gentle avenues toward a peaceful settlement. We hope to meet with Governor Mark Dayton. We deeply appreciate the heartfelt letters that have already been sent but ask that letters be held while we negotiate a meeting with the governor,” Rogers wrote. “We want to avoid legal proceedings, if possible, but have set up a separate legal fund in preparation for the worst.”

It’s not clear what legal recourse Rogers might have. Some of his supporters have urged him to seek a court injunction against the DNR’s move.

The DNR says Rogers’ research bears in Eagles Nest Township near Ely have become habituated to human food and might be a danger to local residents. They also say Rogers’ work with bears has failed to produce any recent scientific results.

While Roger uses food to befriend bears, he needs radio transmitter collars to find them in the woods.

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