DNR Says Research Bears Causing Concern Among Residents

By KBJR News 1

January 15, 2013 Updated Jan 16, 2013 at 11:37 AM CDT

Ely, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The bears researched by Dr. Lynn Rogers near Ely have become popular around the world after thousands watched them via a camera placed inside their dens.
But the research methods used by Dr. Rogers aren't popular with everyone.

For decades, Dr. Lynn Rogers has been at home in the woods near Ely, studying bears up close, hoping to learn about the animal he calls misunderstood.

"The stuff that I used to think was dangerous, you know that they [the bears] were being ferocious, was just [them] expressing their own anxiety," said Rogers.

Kurt Soderberg calls the woods home too. And has a much different take on the neighborhood bears.

"In a given year there could be many, many complaints about the bear's causing damage, concerning people with coming too close, the bears not being afraid of humans," said Soderberg.

Soderburg's not alone, the Minnesota DNR says they've received multiple complaints from people who live near Eagle's Nest Township, saying the bears come a little too close for comfort.

"They're [the residents] not comfortable with bears being this friendly to people," said Communications Director for the Minnesota DNR, Chris Niskanen.

A recent letter to Dr. Rogers, written by DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, expresses this concern, and others, about Rogers' work, including a lack of published research. Landwehr is concerned that Rogers' research methods are making wild bears too comfortable around humans.

"It's the best way for people to learn, because they're learning directly from the bears," said Rogers.

"I think overall, Dr. Rogers' research and especially the North American Bear Center have been great for Ely," said Ely Mayor, Ross Petersen.

Petersen says bear and human interaction is a potential problem that needs to be dealt with, but stands by Rogers, saying his work has benefited the Bear Center.

"I could see that that [the Bear Center] was going to have a very positive effect on the community and it has and I think all of that stems from Dr. Rogers' research," said Petersen.

Soderberg says he isn't necessarily against the research itself, just wishes it would be done in a different manner and not so close to home.

"It doesn't need to be done literally in somebody's back yard," said Soderberg.

Dr. Rogers says he plans to respond to the letter sent to him by the DNR, but hasn't done so yet.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.