If you're out hunting in northern Minnesota and happen to stumble upon a bear den, don't panic – call the DNR.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is asking hunters and others who go out this fall to contact them and report bear den locations for research purposes, according to a news release.
Researchers aiming to "jump-start" a summer 2016 study on bear movements hope the information allows them to find and put tracking collars on the animals "in and around" the Chippewa National Forest, north of Grand Rapids.
They're also interested in hearing about dens "within an hour’s drive of Bemidji."
Specifically, they're looking for occupied bear dens.
Finding bears in the fall would "allow us to get a whole year of movement data, which we can’t do with bears that we catch and collar in mid-summer (2016)," DNR bear project leader Dave Garshelis said in the release.
There's more to the study than just taking notes on the places bears like to hang around in the warmer months; the agency says they are trying to see how bears are "may have responded to changes in the forest since the 1980s."
"It appears that the age and composition of trees on the national forest has changed significantly during the past 30 years," Garshelis said, adding that, as a result, there have been "changes in food supplies for bears."
As such, the DNR wants to discover how the bears have adapted.
Though they've tracked the animals with collars in the past, the agency is now aided by "next generation" collars that transmit bears' locations "via satellite to the researchers." Previously, keeping an eye on them took a weekly airplane trip.
Anyone who finds a den is asked to call Dave Garshelis at 218-327-4146 or 218-328-5172.
"Bear research provides a better understanding of factors that cause populations to change, and in this way enables the DNR to better manage and conserve this species," the release says.