Lynn Rogers Says State Is Out to Get Him as DNR Bars Bear Den Cams

Rogers and one of his beloved bears.

Rogers and one of his beloved bears.

Lynn Rogers, subject of last month's feature story, "How bear expert Lynn Rogers went from scientific pioneer to pariah," has officially lost his battle with the DNR over whether he can put cameras in bear dens and radio collars on the animals.

In a decision announced earlier this week, the DNR upheld an initial ruling made last year to deny Rogers's permits.

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In the ruling, DNR administrator Kent Lokkesmoe, citing public safety concerns, writes, "Dr. Rogers is not precluded from feeding bears or interacting with them. Education about bears can continue. What he cannot do is radio-collar bears without a permit from the Department."

The ruling comes on the heels of an administrative law judge deciding earlier this year that the state indeed has legal grounds to deny Rogers's permits. Rogers, however, tells us the notion that den cams or radio collars present public safety concerns is a bunch of BS.

"Nobody has been attacked in this community for the entire 50 years we've been feeding bears, and you can't get much stronger evidence than that," he says. The DNR "admitted they had falsified complaints against me, admitted they had solicited complaints from people, and that's how the number of complaints jumped from zero in eight years to 17 in one year. That's what we were up against."

Referring to the judge's ruling, Rogers says the DNR "had to admit under oath that they had done that stuff, but the judge still deferred to the department."

Some residents of Eagles Nest Township we spoke to for our feature beg to differ with Rogers, however. For instance, in 2007, 28 of the 242 who live in the community signed a petition asking the town supervisor to bring the bears under control.

One resident, Andy Urban, said Rogers's feeding practices have resulted in a state of affairs where bears looking for food hang out on his deck and won't leave even if he yells, bangs things, or breaks out the pepper spray.

"He likes to think that this is just a bear's natural way," Urban said of Rogers. "And what he is doing is habituating bears so they see people as a source of food. And some people are comfortable with that, but other people are worried."

But Rogers argues concerns about bear feeding are a separate issue from the den cams and radio collars.

(For more, click to page two.)

Referring to the den cams, Rogers says, "Before, it'd be somebody looking at the den, recording to the bear's reaction to the person, not natural behaviors. We were the first, but the DNR limited us to two [cams], so we couldn't learn too much, and when they saw that the public was interested and hundreds of schools across the country were following this daily, they prohibited us from broadcasting."

"If you can see any public safety connection to that, you're a better man than me," he continues. "Without the radio collars, we can't do significant research, but on the other hand, the reason we removed the collars [a few months ago] is because with all the restrictions the DNR had put on us we were no longer able to do the top-quality research we're known for. If we can't do that, we won't do it at all."

Rogers says he'll appeal the DNR's ruling to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. He's confident the outcome will be more favorable in a forum free from the influence of the Dayton administration and the DNR.

"I don't know how many of [the three judges sitting on the appeals court] were appointed by Governor Dayton, but I think we'd have a better chance," he says. "I think the [administrative law] judge was under considerable pressure being appointed by Governor Dayton, who took a public stand with the DNR against us."

Meanwhile, since feeding bears by hand isn't illegal, Rogers says that in the short run, at least, the DNR's ruling won't change anything at his Northwoods Research Center.

To read the DNR's ruling for yourself, click to page three.


Rogers DNR Decision

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.