Shooting of Collared Research Black Bears

In letters to the editors of local newspapers Tom Landwehr, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, revealed his firm beliefs and displayed his lack of understanding of the situation and a lack of critical thinking ability.
Mr. Landwehr firmly believes the shooting of collared research animals during the normal Black Bear hunt is the best approach. One usually believes something or one believes something else. I suppose gritting ones teeth or sweating during one’s belief may seem to some as MORE or STONGER belief than AVERAGE. To me, it implies he is RELALLY trying to convince himself along with everyone else. He also does not explain why the shooting of collared bears is a good idea. He does make many excuses for such activities. We may be able to forgive him as he may still be a bit woozy from the “dizzying array of issues” he has had to endure during his first six weeks on the job. And, in such fury, it may be easier to keep the status quo than thoroughly analyzing the benefits of both alternatives. It may be easier to keep things as they are, but it may not be the best for all concerned to do so.
Mr. Landwehr belittles public emotion on the issue and sees research desires opposed to pragmatism as well as private interests against the public good. Since he doesn’t explain how this is so, I believe most would not see these as diametrically opposed. The type of research Dr. Lynn Rogers does is pragmatic, yes interesting and popular. No telling how useful in might be to the state. The DNR is so parochial about its own type of population management “science” it can’t see any other science. To say it isn’t useful to the management of Minnesota’s, DNR ruled, black bear population is a moot point. The DNR does that type of research. Dr. Rogers’ research is beneficial to the public in ways apparently incomprehensible to the DNR and Mr. Landwehr and yes it is popular, very popular. It does not appear that Mr. Landwehr has looked at the positive economic benefit of Dr. Rogers research to the Ely area and possibly also the Orr area, and its bear center. This is not just an Ely “thing,” Dr. Rogers research is rapidly becoming a worldwide event. The DNR might want to capitalize on that popularity for the benefit of Minnesota by becoming a bit more cooperative in this popular movement.
Mr. Landwehr thinks that his department could not enforce a no-shoot policy. But, he suggests that Dr. Rogers approach Minnesota politicians to pass a bill protecting the bears. I fail to see how that would make enforcement any easier. If the DNR is forced, by law, to enforce the non-shooting of collared research animals then the DNR could enforce that law. Seems to me the non-enforceability varies depending on the motivation. Where there is a will, there is a way. Presently there is no will.
As far as the visibility of collars, that is a totally bogus argument. Unless a hunter is shooting at sounds and at times when it is not legal to hunt, or fails to properly identify his target, it is not possible to accidentally shoot a collared and brightly flagged black bear. If a hunter is that unable to distinguish his target he is a danger to everyone in the woods. It appears Mr. Landwehr is more concerned about protecting this even smaller population .11% of MN bear hunters (or, .002% of the MN population) from whatever penalties would be assessed than he is in protecting the .24% of the black bear population in Minnesota that is collared. “..singling out individual bears for protection is not a policy I support.” How does he equate a policy of protection of a subclass of a valuable public resource as singling out individuals? Yet sees nothing wrong with singling our a smaller percentage of the human population for protection (that small group of hunters who pay no attention to the DNR educational programs and prefer to hunt, choose, and kill valuable collared, flagged research bears). The longer Landwehr talks the less sense he makes.
Due to the firmness of his beliefs I do believe that we will need to contact as many politicians in MN as possible and explain why the shooting of collared black bears is such a negative for Minnesota and how positive it could be for Minnesota to have a policy or law prohibiting the shooting of collared bears.

5 comments to Shooting of Collared Research Black Bears

  • Why protection of radio-collared bears is needed now

    1. The DNR asking hunters not to shoot radio-collared bears has not worked. Last year, 11 (23%) of 48 radio-collared bears were shot. That percentage is no different from the portion of bears that hunters kill in the overall population. This includes 2 of 14 in our study and 9 of 34 in Dave Garshelis’ study.

    2. Responsible hunters say shooting radio-collared bears should be illegal. They say it is unfair to be asked to pass up a radio-collared trophy only to have the next hunter legally shoot it and be lauded because he turned the collar in.

    3. The dozen radio-collared bears near Ely and the 2-3 dozen in the DNR’s studies are a tiny fraction of the 20,000 bears in Minnesota.

    4. Minnesota’s bear studies are now about how bears live—not how they die. Radio-collared bears with data histories are too valuable to science to be shot like any other bear.

    5. In the trust-based studies around Ely, the loss of any radio-collared bear in the single bear clan being studied is a huge setback. A collar cannot simply be placed on another bear. This study is providing more data on black bear behavior, ecology, social organization, language, and bear-human relations than any bear study ever has. The data histories on the older bears in that study make them irreplaceable in my lifetime. The data from these bears becomes more valuable each year.

    6. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely are part of the biggest public bear education program ever done. Through social networking, these bears have acquired a following of over a quarter million (over 128 thousand on Facebook alone) that follow them on Den Cams and daily research updates on

    7. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely are part of the biggest classroom bear education program ever done. Over 500 schools follow these bears daily in their classrooms. Teachers and students watch the Den Cam playing and read the daily research updates on Individual radio-collared bears are part of their science, reading, and math classes along with the lesson plans, traveling Black Bear Boxes, and other educational materials now available on (click on Education).

    8. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely have generated a huge amount of good will. Their quarter million followers want to help the area where “their” bears live. They have donated thousands to the Ely Area Food Shelf, voted Ely the “Coolest small town in America,” produced $20,000 for Ely’s Schools, produced $100,000 for Bear Head State Park as well as $600,000 to reduce debt for Ely’s North American Bear Center.

    9. The radio-collared bears around Ely boost Minnesota tourism.
    A. The annual Lilypad Picnic alone draws hundreds of tourists to Ely for extended vacations.
    B. Thousands come to Ely specifically to see the North American Bear Center where the radio-collared bears are the basis for most of the exhibits and keeping those exhibits updated. Attendance in 2010 was 33,843.
    C. The radio-collared bears are the subjects of a continuing series of TV documentaries, each with audiences of over a hundred million. These documentaries (4 in the last two years) advertise the area in a way that could not be bought.

    10. In summary, Minnesota’s radio-collared bears have become too valuable to science, education, tourism, and regional economics to be killed like any other bears. This feeling is supported by the Ely City Council, 68 of 70 Ely business owners, the Ely Chamber of Commerce, nearly 4,000 petitioners, 679 of 685 people who wrote letters to Governor Pawlenty, ~800 of ~900 people who responded to the Duluth News Tribune’s opinion poll, , 847 of 907 in WCCO-TV’s poll, etc.

    Lynn Rogers, Ph.D., and Sue Mansfield, M.S., Biologists, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center

  • Dana Coleman, School Teacher

    March 4, 20011

    Commissioner Tom Landwehr
    Representative Phyllis Kahn
    Representative Denny McNamara
    Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen
    Representative David Dill

    This group of officials does not see the importance of the long-term study of bears. Which one of you will then help me explain to my 23 first graders why one of the bears, that they have watched and read about daily, was shot and killed?

    The bears have grown up right before their eyes. They have discussed and wondered about the most deep and heartfelt issues any young 7 year old could possibly think about regarding these bears. They have learned interesting and valuable information in a way that no textbook could ever instill.

    Because of this group of bears, the den cam, and the daily research updates, my first graders and now their families have an enthusiastic curiosity in science, biology, nature, with a strong interest in our environment.

    This is a wonderful way to foster life long learning, yet a sad way to teach them the harsh realities of our political bureaucracy.

    Commissioner Tom Landwehr, the quote at the bottom of your email says,

    “Take a child outdoors today!”

    I do everyday in my classroom.

    So let us help to preserve the wilderness by protecting the many useful studies that are being done, so the children of tomorrow will be better educated and aware of our great outdoors.


    Dana Coleman

    Columbia Heights, MN 55421

  • Dr. Lynn Rogers, Ph.D. and Sue Mansfield, M.S.

    Addresses of Officials who need to hear our voice:

    Senator Thomas M. Bakk
    100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    State Office Building, Room 147
    St. Paul, MN 55155-1206

    Representative David Dill
    273 State Office Building
    100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
    651-296-2190 or 800-339-0466

    Representative Denny McNamara
    375 State Office Building
    100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

    Representative Phyllis Kahn
    353 State Office Building
    100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

    Commissioner Tom Landwehr
    Minnesota DNR
    500 Lafayette Road
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155

    Governor Mark Dayton
    Office of the Governor
    130 State Capitol
    75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
    Fax: 651-797-1850

    Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen
    75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
    Capitol Building, Room 303
    St. Paul, MN 55155-1606

  • Mike Hillman

    18 March 2011. Bear Necessities.

    There was a lot of buzz around the Ely area about DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehrs decision not to honor a request from Dr. Lynn Rogers of the North American Bear Center in Ely to make shooting collared bears illegal in Minnesota. Rogers request was made, because he wants to get as much protection for his research bears as possible. A lot of time and effort goes into every research bear that both the DNR and The North American Bear Center mark for study, and you don’t learn much from a dead bear. Commissioner Landwehrs denied the request to protect collared bears, citing a number of reasons; the law would be almost impossible to enforce, it would put an unfair burden on hunters who might have a difficult time seeing the collars in dim light when bears are most active, that protecting collard bears isn’t essential for keeping a healthy bear population, and that singling out collared bears from protection seems to be discriminating against all the other bears who don’t wear collars.

    While I can see the logic in most of the Commissioner’s reasoning for denying Dr. Rogers request to protect collared bears, I had to smile when I read that singling out some bears for protection, at the expense of other bears, was a form of discrimination. Does Commissioner Landwehrs think that Minnesota’s black bears are going to get together for a class action lawsuit against the DNR for discrimination, or that Minnesota’s bear hunters would begin the suit for them in order to protect all bears from this unfair discrimination? I have no problem with hunting bears. I remember a time when bears were considered a pest rather than a big game animal, and when the bear population got out of hand many bears were killed because they were getting into trouble. There were too many bears and not enough natural food to feed them, so the bears went after people food, and then there was trouble. Hunting is the best way to manage the bear population in Minnesota.

    I think that the vast numbers of hunters are ethical people who wouldn’t shoot a collared research bear, but I also believe there are some hunters who aren’t so ethical or careful about just what their shooting. We expect deer hunters to know the difference between a buck and a doe before they shoot, so why shouldn’t a bear hunter be just as sure of their target before they squeeze the trigger? I hope the legislature will take up the position of making it illegal to hunt collared bears in Minnesota and I hope that we all would abide by the decision made by our elected officials. Until then, I hope our bear hunters would realize that collared bears are important to advance our understanding of these fascinating animals that we still have so many things to learn about.

  • Wild Duck Hunter

    Mr. Landwehr must not be familiar with Duck Hunting in Minnesota. If we Duck Hunters can distinguish the make, model, and sex of a wild duck flying at 90 miles per hour in the wee-dark hours of the day, then a black bear hunter should be able to distinguish a bear with and without a brightly colored tag and florescent flags around it’s neck. Leads us to believe there is something else going on here, usually is.

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