Lottery offers incentive to protect collared bearsBear hunters in much of northeastern Minnesota now have a compelling reason not to shoot a radio-collared study bear. Cold cash.
By: Forum Newspapers, Lake County News Chronicle
Bear hunters in much of northeastern Minnesota now have a compelling reason not to shoot a radio-collared study bear.
Anonymous donors have put up $5,000 that will be awarded in a drawing among hunters who have registered for the drawing and who pledge not to shoot a radio-collared bear. There’s just one catch: If any radio-collared bear is injured or killed by any hunter, the money will not be awarded. Registering for the drawing is free.
T.R. Michels, a bear hunter and outdoors writer from Inver Grove Heights issued a news release about the $5,000 jackpot on behalf of two anonymous donors. He says the money has been put up by a couple who has been to Lynn Rogers’ Wildlife Research Institute near Ely.
Rogers, who currently has 10 radio-collared bears and hopes to have two more collared by the opening of hunting season on Sept. 1, likes the jackpot idea.
“I say, anything to keep the bears alive,” Rogers said. “Whether there’s legal protection or not, my only goal is to have these nine or so bears survive for all the reasons we’ve always said.”
Rogers, his volunteers and sometimes paying clients follow the bears as they move about the woods during the year. Rogers has been doing bear research for more than 41 years. He has had seven of his radio-collared bears killed over the years, five in the past seven seasons.
Under law, radio-collared bears are not protected and are legal to shoot. Rogers has appealed to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and state legislators to make radio-collared research bears off-limits to hunters, but neither the DNR nor legislators have given those bears protection.
Michels, who is also a bear hunting guide, has lobbied for protection of radio-collared bears. The two donors approached him with the idea of a $5,000 jackpot for hunters, he said. The donors are not against hunting, he said.
Only hunters in bear permit areas 22, 24, 25 and 31, an area from Duluth to International Falls and everything northeast of that, will be eligible to register for the jackpot.
Michels gives the jackpot concept a 75-25 chance of succeeding in protecting the radio-collared bears.
“The philosophy they (the donors) have is quite good,” Michels said. “Every hunter is going to tell other hunters.”
Hunters can register for the jackpot before or during the season, Michels said. Volunteers will be available during the season to sign up hunters, he said, although how the volunteers will encounter hunters is unclear.
According to the DNR, a total of 2,450 hunters have received permits to hunt in permit areas 22, 24, 25 and 31 this fall. The donors will randomly select a winning hunter in the drawing, Michels said.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials say they have no problem with the jackpot concept.
“As long as it doesn’t violate any game and fish laws, it’s kind of a private matter,” said Dennis Simon, chief of the DNR’s wildlife section. “The only thing we’ll be looking at is to make sure it doesn’t encourage anybody to obstruct a legal hunter. If there’s an individual or organized effort to be out in the field doing a harassing or warning activity, that’s obviously against the law.”
Michels supports protection of radio-collared bears because he believes in the value of research, he said.
“This is a worldwide phenomenon. There’s no question the research is important.”