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Minnesota DNR asks hunters not to shoot collared, ear-tagged bears

Bruins are part of long-term research by wildlife biologists.

Ear-tagged and radio-collared bear in Minnesota
Bear hunters in Minnesota are being asked not to shoot bears with brightly colored ear tags, like this bear (which also is covered in sticky seeds).
Contributed / Teresa Berg
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GRAND RAPIDS — Minnesota's bear hunting season opens Sept. 1 and the state Department of Natural Resources is again asking hunters to avoid shooting research bears marked with distinctively large, colorful ear tags and radio collars.

The DNR is monitoring 25 radio-collared black bears across the state, especially in bear hunting zones 25, 27, 45 and 451 and in parts of the no-quota zone. Most of the radio-collared bears live in or near the Chippewa National Forest, Camp Ripley Military Reserve, the Pillsbury State Forest and the Brainerd/Baxter area. But the collared bears may wander far from those sites.

“These collared bears give us much of the data we use in bear management and are most valuable to us when they are collared for multiple years,’’ said Andy Tri, DNR bear research scientist based in Grand Rapids.

A key to the research is looking at year-to-year changes in natural food supplies and how that affects individual bears in terms of their habitat use, physical condition, denning, reproduction and interactions with people. Trapping new bears every year to replace the ones killed cannot substitute for long-term data on individual bears.

All of the collars the DNR uses in this research have GPS units. Each bear provides several thousand data points per year.

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The bear’s coat often hides the collar. But all collared bears have large, colorful ear tags. The tags should be plainly visible on trail cam photos or when a bear is at a bait. Links to example photos of collared bears with ear tags and a summary of pertinent research findings are online under the link “Importance of Radio-collared Bears” at mndnr.gov/Bear .

DNR officials recognize hunters may not be able to see a radio collar or ear tags in some situations. For this reason, shooting a bear with a radio collar is not illegal. But hunters are asked to pause before shooting to get a clear view of the bear’s head revealing the ear tags.

The DNR asks any hunters who do shoot a collared or ear-tagged bear to call the DNR Wildlife Research Office in Grand Rapids at 218-328-8879 to report it and coordinate the pickup or drop off of the collar and heart monitor, if applicable.

Hunters with trail cam photos of ear-tagged bears can provide valuable data and are asked to email the photos and locational information (nearest town or GPS coordinates) to mnbearcams.dnr@state.mn.us .

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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