- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota researcher has surprised his followers and officials alike by removing radio collars from his research bears in the Ely area.

Lynn Rogers told KARE-TV for a report aired Monday that it was a difficult decision that took weeks for his team to make.

He said the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources had “just gutted our project by … restricting the number of radio collars, restricting the kinds of data we could collect, to the point that it was hardly scientifically viable to work under those restrictions,” Rogers said.

Rogers said his collared bears also became targets for hunters. He said removing the collars from the seven remaining bears now will allow fur to grow back on their necks before hunting season opens this fall.

Rogers and the DNR have been in a contentious battle over the renewal of his permit. The DNR argues that Rogers creates a public safety risk by hand-feeding bears. Rogers denies that his work poses a danger.

DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said Rogers‘ latest move is a mystery to the agency. He said Rogers was being allowed to leave the collars on the bears pending a final decision on his permit. An administrative law judge ruled in May that the DNR acted within its authority when it decided to stop renewing Rogers’s permits last year. The DNR plans to make a final decision this fall.

While tracking bears will no longer be part of his work, Rogers said he will continue in the form of scientific papers, books and investing more time in the North American Bear Center in Ely, a popular tourist attraction that he founded.

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