The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 4, 2014

Bear researcher's lawyers say no permit needed

ST. PAUL (AP) — Attorneys for a northern Minnesota bear researcher argues he doesn't need a permit to affix radio collars to wild black bears or put cameras in their dens.

Last year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources refused to renew researcher Lynn Rogers' longstanding permit to collar bears and install den cams. Rogers challenged the decision, resulting in an administrative hearing.

Rogers' attorney, David Marshall, on Monday told the judge that if Rogers doesn't need a permit, the DNR has no case, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Rogers' methods have included feeding bears from his hand and mouth and, at times, assisting as paying participants in his "bear course" have done the same. The DNR says such actions create a public safety hazard because bears see people as a source of food. Agency officials also contend that bears with Rogers' collars are increasingly causing problems in his research area between Ely and Tower.

Marshall asked the judge to, in effect, dismiss the case, arguing the DNR has failed to meet its burden to justify why the agency refused last year to renew Rogers' permit.

At issue is whether Rogers possesses bears. In Minnesota, you need a permit to "take" or "possess" a wild bear. The judge has previously ruled that Rogers doesn't "take" bears as a matter of course. An example of legal taking is what hunters do: shoot one dead.

Most of the DNR's concerns have revolved around Rogers' feeding of bears and the conduct of his bear courses — legal activities— not the actual act of collaring a bear or installing a den cam, Marshall argued.

"It can't be the case that legal activity converts to illegal activity just because you have a permit," Marshall said.

However, DNR bear expert Dave Garshelis testified last week that not only does Rogers exert control over the animals, he tames them like a zookeeper.

"But with food, (Rogers is) conditioning behavior," Garshelis said last week. "In zoos they do this all the time."

Chief Administrative Law Judge Tammy Pust said she would announce her decision Tuesday, the Pioneer Press reported. If she agrees with Rogers, the legal proceeding likely will end. If she disagrees, it will continue, with Rogers' side mounting its defense.

If the proceedings continue, Rogers is expected to testify late this week.

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