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Forum News Service, Published September 15 2013

Research bear killed by hunter near Ely

ELY, Minn. – A well-known research bear was shot and killed by a hunter near Ely on Friday, the North American Bear Center reported.

Dot, who was 13 years old, was wearing a radio collar bedecked with colorful ribbons when she was shot, bear researchers Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield reported online in their daily update for the Bear Center and the associated Wildlife Research Institute. The researchers were feeling “deep grief” about the news.

“Dot was radio-tracked longer than any other bear in the study, beginning with her life in the den with her radio-collared mother, Blackheart,” they wrote. “Dot had a great, gentle personality and was a favorite of many who got to see her in the course of her 13 years.”

Researchers say Dot was the second of the center’s radio-collared bears to be shot during the current Minnesota bear season, which opened Sept. 1; a bear named Aster apparently was shot and wounded Sept. 5.

In an interview, Rogers said Aster had a “floppy front leg” but had no broken bones. “Unless there’s nerve damage I think she will definitely recover,” he said.

Legal kill

It is legal in Minnesota to shoot a radio-collared bear, though in recent years the Department of Natural Resources has urged hunters to refrain from doing so.

“Hunters … should be especially vigilant for these valuable research bears,” DNR bear research biologist Dave Garshelis said in a news release before the season. “These animals provide long-term data on reproduction and habitat use that is invaluable for bear management across the state.”

However, the DNR reported that “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 unless the bear is accompanied by a researcher who has identified the bear to the hunter as a research animal.”

At least nine of Rogers’ radio-collared bears have been killed by hunters over the years, including two in 2010.

Earlier this year, the DNR revoked Rogers’ permits, ordering him and Mansfield to stop placing radio collars on bears and to stop putting cameras in bear dens. But after an appeal to an administrative law judge, a temporary compromise was reached under which the researchers could continue to have collars on up to 10 bears.

With Dot’s death, the bear center now has nine collared bears including gimpy-legged Aster, Rogers said.