DNR asks hunters to avoid shooting radio-collared research bears

With the bear hunting season opening on Friday, Sept. 1, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources asks hunters to avoid shooting research bears that are marked with large, colorful ear tags and have radio-collars. 

“We’re asking hunters to watch out for these valuable research bears, and avoid shooting them. These collared bears are providing a lot of data being used in bear management,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research biologist.

Researchers with the DNR are monitoring about 30 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 farther north, near Orr or Voyageurs National Park. Some collared bears are also around Camp Ripley, and in northwestern Minnesota, especially near Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area and Plummer.

Many of the collars have global positioning 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 during the winter months.

“Most of the collars are black and the bear’s coat often hides the collar, especially in the fall. But all collared bears have colorful ear tags that are 2 by 2 inches. So, hunters can simply identify a collared animal by these large tags, whether or not they see a collar,” Garshelis said.

Photos of collared research bears are available on the DNR website on the black bear page.

DNR officials recognize that a hunter may not be able to see a radio collar or ear tags in some situations. For this reason, taking a bear with a radio collar is legal.

Hunters who shoot a collared bear should call the DNR Wildlife Research Office in Grand Rapids at 218-328-8879 or 218-328-8874 to make arrangements to return the radio collar. Hunters with trail-cam photos of ear-tagged bears can help support the research project by emailing their photos to andrew.tri@state.mn.us.

Hunters who shoot a bear with small eartags and no collar should indicate the ear tag numbers and color on the envelope when they submit bear teeth for required registration.