ST. PAUL -- With the bear hunting season set to begin Saturday, Sept. 1, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources asks that hunters avoid shooting research bears marked with distinctively large, colorful ear tags that have radio-collars.

Researchers with the DNR are monitoring about 30 radio-collared black bears across the state. Most of them are in or near the Chippewa National Forest between Grand Rapids and Bigfork. Others are farther north, near Orr or Voyageurs National Park. Some collared bears are also around Camp Ripley, and in northwestern Minnesota, especially near Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area and Plummer.

“We ask hunters to avoid shooting these valuable research bears. They continue to provide much of the data we use in bear management,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research scientist.

A key to the research is looking at year-to-year changes in natural food supplies and how that affects individual bears. Natural food supply influences bear habitat use, weight gain, the location and date it dens and comes out of the den, reproduction, and interactions with people. The bear’s coat often hides the collar, especially in the fall. And most of the collars are black. But all collared bears have large 3-by-2 inch colorful ear tags. So, hunters can simply identify a collared animal by these large tags, whether or not they see a collar.