Scientists Study Human/Bear Interface with Lily and Hope

By KBJR News 1

October 25, 2010 Updated Oct 26, 2010 at 10:58 AM CDT

Ely, MN (The Northland's NewsCenter) The Black bears near Ely are finally choosing their dens. On Friday researchers found famous bears Lily and Hope had decided on a den for their winter hibernation.

In this week's "Nature Matters" David Hoole talks with lead researcher Lynn Rogers about the focus of this research and learns about the human bear interface.

(Puts collar on) This is a wonderful trusting bear that I can hassle her like this and she is so calm.

The biologists of the Wildlife Research institute are involved in a different type of wildlife study.

"This is the only place in the world that is doing ecological research in this detail where you can actually watch the bears."

It sounds obvious, but not many people who study bears can get a good look at them. The animal's wary nature and the thick cover they reside in make it difficult to get a good look.
Dr. Lynn Rogers has gained the trust and acceptance of the bears and that enables him to get data unavailable to others who don't have the same relationship.

"Bear/human relationships are the one of the most important aspects of bear biology to bear management, but it's one of the least studied parts of bear biology."

"Being close to them, which you have to be to see them if you're gonna learn anything has nothing to do with your objectivity about the data. We record data and do statistics on it and publish it just like any other scientist would except we have much more detailed data than you could get when you can't see a bear."

Rogers and fellow researchers have drawn criticism for feeding wild bear by hand. Some say this "tames" the animals and causes them to lose their natural fear of humans.

"The human bear interface is our specialty, by the human bear interface I mean the study of how bears relate to humans and what we're finding is that just about everything that most people thought about it were misconceptions."

Armed with this knowledge the study group works to inform as many people who will listen.

"We're reaching around the world, changing attitudes about bears and there's no one else doing this research around the world that really shows the ecology, behavior, social relationships, and bear human relationships like we are."

While it's not a "hands off" research approach the scientists involved say the bears remain wild and the humans observant.

"You're on your way bear and we watch their behavior and it's just amazing the kind of stuff they show us."

From the bear woods near Ely, I'm David Hoole for nature Matters.

The research team is making arrangements to get another "den-cam" online near Lily and Hope's winter Den. The popularity of the last project was surprising to many the research team recently posted "We want to see what transpires in that den this winter at least as much as you all do."

Click bear.org to visit the North American Bear Center's website.