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Hunters: Don't shoot radio-collared bears

Hunters participating in this fall's bear hunt, which opens Sept. 1, should avoid shooting radio-collared animals to aid researchers in collecting valuable data about Minnesota's black bear population, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

DNR researchers are monitoring about 30 radio-collared black bears, most of them in northwestern Minnesota near Thief Lake, New Main, Twin Lakes, Pelan, Beaches Lake, Skull Lake and Caribou wildlife management areas and the Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge.

Additional radio-collared bears reside in areas in and around the Chippewa National Forest, Camp Ripley, Cloquet Forestry Station and Voyageurs National Park. The Wildlife Research Institute near Ely is monitoring an additional 15 bears.

"Hunters near these areas should be especially vigilant for collared bears," said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research biologist. "But bears, especially those that live at the edge of Minnesota's bear range, travel widely looking for food in the fall and may move up to 50 miles away from their normal summer home range."

Most of the monitored bears are fitted with highly visible blaze orange colored collars. Many of the collars contain global positioning devices that collect and store data that is downloaded when researchers visit the bears in their winter dens.

"We're asking that hunters find other bears to harvest," Garshelis said. "Researchers have invested an enormous amount of time and expense in these individuals, and the data stored in their collars is extremely valuable for monitoring the dynamics of our bear population."

DNR officials recognize that a hunter may not be able to see a radio collar in some situations, and taking a bear with a radio collar is legal unless the bear is accompanied by a researcher who has identified the bear to the hunter as a research animal.

Any hunters who do shoot collared bears should call the DNR Wildlife Research Office in Grand Rapids at (218) 327-4146 or (218) 327-4133.