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Hunters, other recreationists asked to report bear den locations in select areas

Hunters and other recreationists spending time outdoors this fall are asked to report the locations of occupied bear dens they encounter in and around the Chippewa National Forest, north of Grand Rapids.

Bear researchers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are starting a new bear study in the summer of 2016 and hope to fit a number of bears with GPS tracking collars.

"Getting a few bears collared in winter would really help jump-start the study," said Dave Garshelis, DNR bear project leader. "It 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."

The purpose of the study is to examine how bears may have responded to changes in the forest since the 1980s. The DNR previously collared bears in this same study area, roughly between Grand Rapids and Bigfork, through the 1980s and early 1990s. Those bears were located weekly from an airplane to understand how they moved and what habitats they used most. The new generation GPS collars will collect their own locations and transmit these locations via satellite to the researchers.

"It appears that the age and composition of trees on the national forest has changed significantly during the past 30 years," said Garshelis, "and with that has been changes in food supplies for bears. We want to find out how bears have reacted."

The researchers would also be interested in collaring a bear within an hour's drive of Bemidji.

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.

Anyone finding a den in either area is asked to obtain a GPS location (if possible) and call Dave Garshelis in Grand Rapids at 218-327-4146 or 218-328-5172.