Minnesota's annual bear season opens Tuesday, and hunters are being asked to avoid shooting bears that have radio collars. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says those animals are being used for research that will help the agency better manage the bear population in the state.
The information that's been collected so far is being used to set annual bear hunting quotas, according to the DNR. Other information researchers are gathering has to do with the bears' reproductive rates, their movements through the year, mortality rates and nuisance activity.
The bears who've been collared also have large colored tags attached to their ears, which should be visible to hunters even if the collar is covered by fur.
While it's not illegal to shoot a radio-collared bear, the DNR is asking hunters to avoid doing so if possible.
"It is difficult or impossible to replace some of these research animals, and the data they provide, especially during the fall, is invaluable to bear management," the agency said.
DNR collared bears live mainly in northwestern Minnesota - which is a no-quota area - as well as the Chippewa National Forest, near Camp Ripley, and near Voyageurs National Park. But since the animals roam around they are likely to be seen in other areas as well.
Bear hunt facts
- Hunting season is Sept. 1-Oct. 18
- About 18,000 hunters applied for 3,700 available licenses in the primary bear range, or quota zone. They were chosen by lottery.
- There's no limit on the number of hunters in the non-quota zone.
- The DNR expects about 6,300 hunters, the same as last year. About 25 percent of them will get a bear.
- Minnesota has between 10,000 and 15,000 bears, which is down significantly from the 1980s and '90s.
- Last year hunters killed 1,627 bears, the lowest number since 1988.
- More than 80 percent of the animals will be taken in the first two weeks of the season.
DNR bear hunt general information
DNR 2015 bear hunt regulations
DNR 2014 bear harvest report