Skip to main content

Judge: No permits for Ely bear researcher, but can continue some work

  • Author:
  • Updated:

A judge has sided against Ely bear researcher Lynn Rogers in his permit fight against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) – but also said he could continue using some of his research methods.

The 69-page ruling by Chief Administrative Judge Tammy Prust was posted on Minnesota's Office of administrative Hearings website Tuesday.

The judge concluded that the DNR's decision to withdraw Rogers' bear research permit should be upheld, meaning he must stop collaring bears, intentionally and repeatedly handling them, and visiting their dens, as those acts are prohibited in Minnesota without a permit.

What Rogers can continue to do, however, is feed bears at the Wildlife Research Institute; he can continue to "educate the public" through field study courses, and use already-filmed footage from bear dens in academic and educational settings. He can also ("for some period of time," Prust noted) continue to walk with, rest with, observe and take notes on the bears who have already gotten used to his presence. And if he encounters a bear in the woods, he can approach it and follow "as the bear allows."

The Duluth News Tribune reports Prust found some of Roger's behavior with the animals – including punching, dancing, kissing and mouth-feeding them – violated the respect for their nature that state law tries to enforce.

The report is only a recommendation, not a final decision – the DNR commissioner will appoint someone to make a final decision regarding Rogers' bear research. Rogers, FOX 21 points out, would have the ability to appeal that decision.

The Debate

Rogers has been studying bears for more than 40 years, gaining worldwide praise and attention for his work with the animals. More recently, the research center’s website has attracted more than 6 million visitors that followed black bear “Lily” and her cubs. The mother bear gave birth to twins earlier this year with thousands of viewers watching online.

But in the summer of 2013, the DNR took away some of his permits.

The DNR says Rogers’ methods, including hand-feeding the bears, have caused the animals to lose their fear of humans and become a public safety threat to Ely residents. The department also says Rogers didn’t produce the amount of required published research that is required in his permit.

Rogers, however, says the DNR’s claims are unfounded, and is accusing the DNR of falsifying bear complaints to turn the public against his research.

Rogers met with Dayton the next month, but got little help. Shortly after he filed a lawsuit against the DNR, before coming to something of a compromise with the agency that allowed him to continue his work in a scaled-back manner.

In February of 2014, Prust began hearing Rogers' arguments to have his permits reinstated. That lasted for weeks, and her recommendation was published Tuesday.

Next Up


Motorcyclist killed on I-494 crash in Richfield

The Minnesota State Patrol has identified the victim as a 42-year-old Shakopee man.


Gallery: This Seward Neighborhood gem SOLD fast!

Classic 1903 home came with modern updates

Screen Shot 2022-06-30 at 3.19.42 PM

Evacuations underway after explosion, fire on U of M campus

Evacuations are in effect on campus after an underground explosion and fire Thursday afternoon.

hopkins high school

‘Terrible prank’ during tornado drill causes scare at Hopkins High School

The school principal said the incident brought armed police to the school and "understandably caused some scholars anxiety."

MNBCA - Balsimo 1

Woman admits to role in St. Paul man's gruesome murder

A 32-year-old Duluth woman has taken a plea deal in the case of a 34-year-old St. Paul man's murder.

Screen Shot 2022-06-30 at 11.18.35 AM

'Living nightmare’ alleged at Savage, Minn. rabbit sanctuary

"Peacebunny Cottage" is now the subject of an animal cruelty investigation.


Tractor tips on embankment, killing man in Kandiyohi County

The tractor reportedly tipped and fell on top of the man, pinning him underneath.

Sloane Martin

Sloane Martin teams with Mike Golic Jr. for college football broadcasts

Martin, 33, lives in Minnesota and continues to climb the sports broadcasting ladder.

Melvin Carter

St. Paul plans to extend $500 payments to low-income families

The expansion would give more than 300 families a monthly payment of $500.

16362 County Rd 81, Maple Grove, Minnesota - October 2021 (4)

Use of car seat in crash that killed child still under investigation

The mother of the child was treated for injuries not considered to be life-threatening.