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Bear researcher Lynn Rogers removes radio collars from bears

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Bear researcher Lynn Rogers said he has removed radio collars from wild bears he's been studying for several years in the Ely, Minnesota area,  MPR News reports.

Rogers has been in a dispute with the state Department of Natural Resources for the past few years over his research methods, which include hand-feeding the animals, handling them and visiting them in their dens.

Rogers uses the feeding to get close enough to the bears to collar them with tracking devices. The DNR maintains the feeding has caused the bears to see humans as a source of food, thereby endangering the public. The agency also argues that Rogers has failed to publish enough scientific research to justify his permit.

Rogers, for his part, says the DNR’s claims are unfounded, and accuses the DNR of falsifying bear complaints to turn the public against his research.

In a message on the Wildlife Research Institute's website, which he posted Sunday, Rogers called the DNR's restrictions on his research "punitive," and said they have "ruined" his research project.

Rogers has been studying bears for more than 40 years, gaining worldwide attention for his work with the animals. More recently, the research center’s website has attracted millions of visitors who watched Lily, a black bear, via a webcam installed in her den as she gave birth to twin cubs.

In this photo provided by the WRI, Rogers and his research associate Sue Mansfield remove Lily's radio collar.

The DNR first issued Rogers a permit to collar bears in 1999. But in June 2013 the agency decided not to reissue it. Rogers appealed that decision, and unsuccessfully asked Gov. Mark Dayton to intervene on his behalf.

A judge heard arguments in the case earlier in the year, and in May, she agreed with the DNR’s decision to withdraw Rogers' bear research permit -- meaning he would have to stop collaring bears, repeatedly handling them and installing web cams in their dens.

He would still be allowed to feed bears at the Wildlife Research Institute, to “educate the public” through field study courses, and use already filmed footage from bear dens in academic and educational settings.

Rogers was not required to remove the tracking collars from the bears at this time, DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen said, because the judge's finding was only a recommendation and a final decision is still pending.

A DNR-designated employee with no ties to the matter will make the final decision on Rogers' research permit by the fall, after weighing arguments from both sides as well as the findings of the judge, the Associated Press reports.

Rogers has said he will appeal if the DNR rules against him.

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