For first time, no ear-tagged, radio-collared research bears killed during hunting season
Minnesota bear hunters did not harvest any radio-collared research bears during this fall’s hunting season, which ran from Sept. 1 to Oct. 14, the DNR said in a news release Monday, Oct. 22.
For the first time, none of the collared research bears were killed. Shooting a bear with a radio collar is legal, but has been discouraged since 2001.
Researchers with the DNR are monitoring about 30 radio-collared black bears across the state, and asked hunters to voluntarily avoid shooting these valuable research subjects.
“A key to our research is being able to monitor the same individuals year after year, because conditions vary year to year,” said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear research scientist. “We recognize that the collars are hard to see, so we marked all of the research bears with large colorful eartags. Then we reached out to hunters to stress that even if they didn’t see a collar but did see these large tags, the bear was collared.”
Most of the collars have global positioning units (GPS) that provide thousands of data points per year. The GPS coordinates are uploaded to a satellite, so the bears can be tracked in near real time.
Many of the collared bears went on long-distance fall travels this year and several travelled 90 to 100 miles outside their home range. They tend to do that when natural food conditions are especially good, because they are more likely to hit a jackpot food source. These long-distance travels are costly in terms of energy expenditure, and also risky, because the bear moves through areas where it has never been. While migrating, these bears likely came across baits of many different hunters.
“Several hunters sent us trail camera photos of tagged bears that they passed up shooting –even sometimes when it was the only bear visiting their bait,” said Garshelis. “It’s commendable and a real testament to hunters’ appreciation for the research, and their understanding of its importance in bear management.”
Hunters with trail-cam photos of ear-tagged bears can still email them to email@example.com.