DNR Says Bear Killed Near Ely Unusually Accustomed to Humans

By KBJR News 1

August 6, 2012 Updated Aug 6, 2012 at 7:51 PM CDT

Ely, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Minnesota DNR officials say the collared research bear killed by conservation officers near Ely Thursday was unusually accustomed to humans.

"Wild bears should not behave this way," said DNR Communications Director, Chris Niskanen, "It came up to the officer and was acting in a way that was very unnatural for a wild bear."

According to a DNR incident report, the officers were called to a residence near Ely where a bear had approached a garage where several children were present.

Niskanen says wild bears don't readily approach humans like the one killed near Ely did, which according to the DNR report, opened its mouth and made contact with an officer's hand with its teeth.

According to the report, the residents and the officers made several unsuccessful attempts to get the bear to leave the area before the officers decided to shoot the bear.

The bear was being monitored by Dr. Lynn Rogers of the Wildlife Research Institute near Ely.

Dr. Rogers says the bear was killed due to a misunderstanding and fear of bears.

"It was just a captive bear that had been released and when it showed up feeling comfortable people thought the worst," Rogers said.

Rogers says that in the decades he's been studying bears he's never seen an instance of them creating a threat toward humans. He says that people in the area are used to the bears and some have been feeding them for decades.

"If people move into bear country, they can expect to see bears," Rogers said,"It's as simple as that."

The collared bear that was killed by a DNR officer was one Rogers had been studying for about a month.

Niskanen says that when it comes to bear behavior, the unnatural happens when humans feed the bears. That's also when he says problems arise.

"Bears become more accustomed to human activity if they're receiving food in these areas and they become more bold and they don't retreat when people try to scare them away," Niskanen said.

Niskanen says that problems are less likely to occur if people stop feeding the bears.

"If people do the right thing and don't feed bears, then bears become accustomed to wild food and they live the life that wild bears should be living," he said.

Dr. Rogers says that he hopes to educate people on bear behavior, so bears and humans can peacefully coexist.

"When we hear something like this we empathize with the people and the conservation officer making the decision, but we also hope that the DNR and these people will talk to us and work with us," said Rogers.

Niskanen says that on average there are about 20 calls of bear nuisance complaints across the state every year.

He says that the DNR has found relocating bears after nuisance complaints to be an unsuccessful solution because the moving of the bears creates similar problems elsewhere.

Written for the web by Jennifer Austin.