The Minnesota bear hunting season opens Tuesday, Sept. 1, and the Department of Natural Resources is asking hunters to avoid shooting marked research bears. These bears are marked with distinctively large, colorful ear tags and have radio collars.
Researchers with the DNR are monitoring about 20 radio collared black bears across the state, especially in bear hunting zones 27, 25 and 45, and in parts of the no-quota zone. Most of them are in or near the Chippewa National Forest between Grand Rapids and Bigfork. Others are near Voyageurs National Park or around Camp Ripley.
“We’re asking hunters to avoid shooting these valuable research bears. These collared bears give us 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 in terms of their habitat use, physical condition, denning, reproduction and interactions with people. This research is not designed to evaluate mortality from hunting. Trapping new bears every year to replace the ones killed cannot substitute for long-term data on individuals.
Most of the collars have GPS units. The GPS coordinates are either uploaded to a satellite, or stored in the collar and downloaded by DNR researchers when they visit the bears in their dens. Each bear provides several thousand data points per year.
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 a collar is visible. The tags should be plainly visible when a bear is at a bait, or on trail cam photos.