Saint Paul, MN

Minnesota hunters asked not to shoot research bears with tags

Paula Carlsen
Marco Secchi/unsplash

ST. PAUL, MN - Bear hunting season in Minnesota begins Wednesday, September 1, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges hunters to avoid shooting designated research bears. These bears are identified by their enormous, bright ear tags and radio collars.

The DNR is monitoring approximately 20 radio-collared black bears throughout the state, particularly in bear hunting zones 25, 27, 45, and 451, as well as portions of the no-quota zone. The majority of them are located within or near the Chippewa National Forest, between Grand Rapids and Bigfork. Others are located near Voyageurs National Park and in the vicinity of Camp Ripley.

"We're asking hunters to avoid shooting these valuable research bears," explained Andy Tri, DNR bear research scientist. "These collared bears give us much of the data we use in bear management and are most valuable to us when they are collared for multiple years."

DNR officials realize that a hunter may be unable to detect a radio collar or ear tags in some cases. As a result, taking a bear wearing a radio collar is lawful; however, waiting a few minutes to gain a clear view of the bear's head will disclose whether it is wearing huge ear tags, indicating that it is collared.

Bears with tiny ear tags (1 by 1/4 inch) may be seen by hunters. Although these bears are not collared, they are critical for other current studies. Take a bear with small ear tags is legal.

The majority of collared bears have a tiny cardiac monitor placed beneath the skin on the left side of the chest. It resembles a bit silver capsule about the width of a paper clip. This contains vital information that has been stored in memory. Hunters who discover this device when skinning the bear are asked to submit it together with the collar. Hunters who have trail cam photos of ear-tagged bears are requested to send them to along with their location information (nearest town or GPS coordinates) (link sends email).

The bear's coat frequently conceals the collar, particularly in the fall, and most collars are black. However, all collared bears wear big (3 by 2 inch), colorful ear tags, which enable hunters to quickly identify a collared animal regardless of whether the collar is visible. The tags should be visible on trail camera images or when a bear approaches a bait.

The DNR is requesting that any hunters who shoot a collared or ear-tagged bear contact the DNR Wildlife Research Office in Grand Rapids at 218-328-8879 to report it and coordinate the collar's pickup or return.

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