Former Andover Elementary teacher advocates for black bear researcher

Classrooms like the one Dana Coleman taught at Andover Elementary School may not be able to view black bears in the same way.

Dr. Lynn Rogers outside Lily’s Den in late December 2010.Photo by Jim Stroner (Wildlife Research Institute)

Dr. Lynn Rogers outside Lily’s Den in late December 2010.Photo by Jim Stroner (Wildlife Research Institute)

Ever since people from all over the world watched Lily give birth to Hope Jan. 22, 2010 on a live den cam video feed, the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely has gained an international following for its research of black bears.

Coleman no longer teaches first grade at Andover Elementary, but she continues to advocate for Dr. Lynn Rogers and his associate researcher Sue Mansfield in their fight against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources because she saw how much her students in two years learned and how excited they got about science.

She was one of many supporters who questioned Gov. Mark Dayton’s handling of the situation during a news conference with DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

“There’s no other way kids in the city are even going to come in contact with a bear to see how (the bears) react together and how the mother brings up her cubs,” said Coleman, who now is a clinical placement coordinator at Hamline University, St. Paul.

The DNR has issued a permit to Rogers since 1999 to radio collar and study black bears, but chose not to renew the permit this last time. Rogers was told to remove all radio collars by the end of July, but he spoke to Dayton and sued the DNR to advocate for continuing his work.

Ramsey County District Court Judge John Guthmann July 29 issued an injunction so Rogers can continue studying the 10 bears that have radio collars, but an administrative law judge will review this case over the next six to nine months to determine the Wildlife Research Institute’s permit status.

For now, no more bears can get radio collars and the live video feeds must stop.

“The losers due to the DNR action are the thousands of people who want to learn about bears,” Rogers said, who claims that the DNR has been trying to build a case against him and had no legitimate reasons for denying his permit renewal request.

Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager, said people have accused the DNR of being jealous of the attention Rogers is getting. He said nothing could be further from the truth and nobody is entitled to a permit to study animals.

The DNR is concerned about public safety that it says comes from the hand-feeding and close contact that Rogers, his research team and others have with the bears. The judge placed restrictions that will only allow Rogers, Mansfield and four additional researchers to touch or hand-feed the bears from now on.

“We have bears exhibiting behavior we don’t see anywhere else,” Cornicelli said, alluding to complaints of bears walking up to vehicles and breaking into houses.

Rogers said “there’s not a public safety issue” with regards to bears attacking people because of them getting more comfortable being around people and questions the legitimacy of the complaints the DNR is bringing forward. He said the Eagles Nest Township community near the Wildlife Research Institute has coexisted peacefully with the bears for many years.

Cornicelli said another concern of the DNR is that Rogers has not been the chief author of enough peer-review research in recent years.

When asked about some of the most recent entries Rogers for which provided a list, Cornicelli said a couple of examples were “invited talks” at conferences that did not meet the DNR standards and a 2011 study on diversionary feeding that utilized data collected from 1989 to 1991, Cornicelli said.

Rogers said he has been the senior author on more peer review papers on black bears than anyone in the world.

He provided two pages of more recent examples, which included everything from poster, to journal articles to books.

Coleman’s class during the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years did more than watch bears hibernating. Students read journal entries from Rogers and read material from other authors about black bears.

Coleman remembers a parent telling her about how excited and knowledgeable her daughter was during a trip to the North American Bear Center in Ely.

“You want kids to be excited about something. Who knows what will come of it. She could be a researcher, or veterinarian or biologist because of this,” Coleman said.

While the Wildlife Research Institute will still be able to provide the written documents and video from the two den cameras, Coleman said there is no substitution for students being able to view a live den cam video feed on the Internet.

Coleman said many of her kids and adults as well learn best visually and the den cam is just another tool. They could see that the cubs nursing during hibernation and see that they stay close to the den in the early spring after waking from hibernation while the mother shows her cubs how to protect themselves.

Cornicelli questions how much classrooms can learn from the den cams alone considering how the bears would be hibernating during much of the school year. He said the Wildlife Research Institute can still post videos and other research material on its website.

Without the live video feed, Rogers said it will be almost impossible for people to ever see this footage because he does not have the staffing resources to devote to creating DVDs. His main focus has always been his research.

“There’s only a couple of us and we’re trying to research and publish,” Rogers said. “If we have to somehow make 500 DVDs and mail them out on a daily basis, we wouldn’t be doing anything else.”

Coleman’s Andover Elementary class was able to connect with a Scottish girl and a North Carolina teacher through their mutual interest in the black bears. The teacher even traveled to Minnesota and brought $300 worth of educational material about black bears.

The students were heartbroken when a cub named Jason died April 12, 2011, but this was an opportunity for Coleman to talk with the students about death.

Hope, the first cub of Lily’s to gain Internet famed, was killed by a hunter at the age of two. Many people had written the DNR to ask that it be illegal for hunters to shoot these bears, but the DNR declined to protect these research bears any more than other bears.

While Rogers is anxious to have Landwehr be cross-examined by the administrative judge for the accusations the DNR is making, he cannot wait for this distraction to be behind him.

“I’m 74 years old and every year I end up getting distracted by the DNR putting this stuff on me in one way or another,” Rogers said. “The DNR just wants to stymie us in every way they can.”

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

  • Sheri Lyon Reese

    This is the daily whine of the WRI, when anything they gave up was a compromise reached at the last court date. The DNR gave things up in this compromise as well. The WRI is trying to sway the public to put more pressure on the DNR who is really ju

  • Trish Price Kincaid

    Great article! The DNR must have better things to do than cause problems where NO problems exist except in the minds of disgruntled hunters and former staffers.

  • Dani (Deb)

    Rogers brought this on himself. He knew he was expected to put out papers and he chose not to. So, he can blame no one but himself. If research is his objective then he simply should have put out the peer reviewed papers and he would be fine. As far as teaching with the den cams, there are videos on the internet of Lily having cubs and other collared bears having cubs that a teacher can use in just the same manner for creative writing, for math and all manner of subjects. It does not have to be live to worthy of using in education. Young children should not be exposed to the lives cams as they are not ready to handle the cruelty that can happen in nature like when Jason died, or Hope died. I would never use a live came with young children like that and would not want to expose them to that. That is something the parents should do. I much prefer the DVD or simply going to bearstudy on youtube and using their videos there.

    Rogers and these people act like these ten bears are the ONLY bears in the world that can educate children about wildlife and bears. All one had to do is google “black bears” and you will find a world of information for the children to learn from. If ALL Rogers wants is to research then perhaps he should stick to research and stop using the bears as fodder to build his empire. Rogers can still research, he can still write, he can still walk in the woods and watch the bears, he can still collect data that he keeps saying “soon…soon we will have enough to publish”. After all these years when is soon? And the things he used to tell everyone was ground breaking has already been published like mixed litters and a bear abandoning her cub. Write Rogers Write.

    It is amazing that for several years this has been an issue and the DNR has told him more than once to produce papers and he has not done it at any time. He just claims conspiracy theories as to how the DNR is to get him. He “gets” himself by feeding bears from his mouth, having children sitting on the deck feeding a bear from his mouth, by taking classes out and letting them hand feed the bears and pet them. And yes, we all know how they did not do that this year. Of course they did not. They knew the DNR was on to them about it and they had been warned.

    If anyone were to really sit and think about it, the same things can be done with the videos put out by the bearstudy channel. And meeting those that are interested in bears from others places is still possible without live cams. Rogers should be thankful that he still gets to use the cam for his research that he says that is all he is interested in and that he did still get to take these last four August bear classes out to see the bears one time and from a distance. The classes he himself said would bring in 80,000 for four weeks and he does it all summer long. He can still do his research but he seems to be spending a lot of time trying to stir up conspiracy theories as to how everyone is out to get him when all he had to do was produce some peer reviewed papers which he says he already has the data for. The bears belong in the wild and not as celebrities that are used for bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    • KB

      Deb, You certainly are concerned about publishing…my, my. Relax.There are already many publications if you would simply take time to look. And most of the studies already out there have either been inspired by Dr Rogers or done by him. Don’t want to expose the children to cruelty? The cruelty of hunting? Dana Coleman’s class had wonderful discussions about the circle of life and things that happen in nature. Pretty great way to learn if you ask me. Discuss it in a safe environment with friends and a wonderful teacher that you trust. Discuss it as it applies to an animal “family” that you have come to learn a lot about. Many of the situations that we have studied on live den cams have been ground breaking; seen for the first time as it happens. As den watchers we collected that data; vocalizations, activities, interactions, outside disturbances..we collected it minute by minute 24/7. That is data. We saw interaction between siblings, mothers and cubs. That data was collected. That is research data. I still do not understand how negatives do not get it. Is your dislike for Dr Rogers that great that you are blinded by it? Was your ego so hurt by someone that you can’t get past it? Sorry it that is the case. But why deny thousands of students in hundreds of classes around the world the opportunity that has only been opened up in the last few years just because you are mad at someone and want to strike out in any way you can? That is just selfish.

      • LoveYourDNA

        Grasping at straws is all they have for their so-called reasons Doc’s research should not continue…

  • Kaleen Vaden

    Cornicelli obviously has a lot to learn about hibernation, He could learn something from watching the den cams. Makes you wonder how much the DNR really knows about bears. Hibernation time is full of activity after the cubs are born, and there is activity by the mother beforehand, rearranging the bedding in the den. The bears sleep for a few hours, then the cubs feed, get cleaned by the mother bear, and then play. Bears with year-old cubs also have a lot of activity, with those cubs frequently awake, playing, and wanting to ‘nurse’. Even bears without cubs awaken and move around. This ‘hibernation’ time is a valuable look at the lives of bears, and the loss of the den cams is a real tragedy.

  • mnmagnolia

    As a volunteer at a local elementary school I see how important it is for students to be excited about something with the school day and the bear internet feed is a perfect way to do this. Tuning in to the den cam feeds shows the wide range of activity and inactivity in the dens so the children get the true picture of the everyday life of the bears. DVD’s would need to have someone decide what was important for the classroom and that will not give a true picture of the less than exciting times. Teachers would need to review the DVDs to decide what to show the children; they do not have the time for this review, and it censors the true activity of the bears. The reality of everyday in the den lets those students see the ‘work-d-day’ life similar to our own human lives. They learn that excited and mundane moments occur in everyone or every bears life. All of which is learning about life. I was disappointed in Governor Dayton not being able to recognize the value of children wanting to go to school since has a teaching background.

  • kaylor2008

    There is a pregnant panda somewhere they just put a live cam on. There are live cams on critters all over the place. This ban on live cams is just silly.

  • Jill Russell

    Mr. Cornicelli’s comments show how outdated his knowledge about bears,
    and particularly hibernation, is. He would have expanded his knowledge by
    watching the live den cams and reading the daily updates from the
    Wildlife Research Institute
    or even from asking some of the school children who have been actively
    involved in studying the bears. If he had watched the den cams, he would
    know that mother bears care for their active cubs from the time of
    birth with little time for sleeping…as with all mothers! That Mr.
    Cornicelli “questions how much classrooms can learn from the den cams
    alone considering how the bears would be hibernating during much of the
    school year” indicates he still thinks bears sleep soundly all winter,
    giving birth and never tending to cubs. Does he think cubs grow for 2-3
    months while asleep? He really needs to look up videos of the antics
    of rambunctious cubs playing during “hibernation” and how the mothers
    have to keep the cubs warm, safe, clean, dry, and well-fed. I fail to
    see how live den cams enter into a safety issue. How does broadcasting a
    live stream from a camera in the woods with no people around cause the
    bears to become a danger to people? Does Mr. Cornicelli think the bears
    are bonding with the people who are watching? I do not buy his reasons
    for stopping the live cams or for working to stop the research.
    Apparently, the Governor of Minnesota and the DNR have ulterior motives
    for stopping the advancement of knowledge that will be beneficial
    internationally for all time. The eyes of the world are watching these
    petty people in Minnesota. Dr. Rogers and his research have put
    Minnesota on the map. These officials are now in the spotlight…and
    not looking good.

  • Jill Russell

    Mr. Cornicelli’s comments show how outdated his knowledge about bears
    and particularly hibernation is. He would have expanded his knowledge by
    watching the live den cams and reading the daily updates from the
    Wildlife Research Institute
    or even from asking some of the school children who have been actively
    involved in studying the bears. If he had watched the den cams, he would
    know that mother bears care for their active cubs from the time of
    birth with little time for sleeping…as with all mothers! That Mr.
    Cornicelli “questions how much classrooms can learn from the den cams
    alone considering how the bears would be hibernating during much of the
    school year” indicates he still thinks bears sleep soundly all winter,
    giving birth and never tending to cubs. Does he think cubs grow for 2-3
    months while asleep? He really needs to look up videos of the antics
    of rambunctious cubs playing during “hibernation” and how the mothers
    have to keep the cubs warm, safe, clean, dry, and well-fed. I fail to
    see how live den cams enter into a safety issue. How does broadcasting a
    live stream from a camera in the woods with no people around cause the
    bears to become a danger to people? Does Mr. Cornicelli think the bears
    are bonding with the people who are watching? I do not buy his reasons
    for stopping the live cams or for working to stop the research.
    Apparently, the Governor of Minnesota and the DNR have ulterior motives
    for stopping the advancement of knowledge that will be beneficial
    internationally for all time. The eyes of the world are watching these
    petty people in Minnesota. Dr. Rogers and his research have put
    Minnesota on the map. These officials are now in the spotlight…and
    not looking good.

  • MelMel51

    How very, very sad the DNR, Mr. Cornicelli in particular, has been by taking the attitude they have in regards to Mr. Rogers and his research. As previously mentioned, I am in agreement that Mr. Cornicelli knows little about bear hibernation. He’s not alone. A lot of so called animal behavior experts think that bears sleep all winter. I’m 62 years old and very glad to say I have benefited educationally from watching the den cams. I had also thought they slept all winter. I am glad to say I now know differently. The complaint the DNR has in regards to authoring enough peer review research is, for a better word, stupid. Thousands of people would never get the opportunity to read these papers but thousands have “seen” and been “educated” by his research. What an honor it has been to ‘follow along’ daily to watch and read about bears. If you read the “Daily Updates” alone a book could be published. I really do not understand the DNR’s stand on this whole situation. Is education not more important to them than “peer review research papers”? I’m living proof that one is never too old to learn and for that, I am most thankful to Mr. Rogers and his staff at the North American Bear Center. Is there not more important issues the DNR and the Governor of Minnesota need to be involved in than to “waste” the tax payers money over these petty, pathetic, issues they are trying to force us to accept as relevant? With every word Mr. Cornicelli spews, he is showing his ignorance. Maybe the people of Minnesota need to take a closer look at the true reasoning behind his allegations. Are they just jealous that people have given monetarily to help continue this education. To me that just shows how much people appreciate the opportunity to see and learn something new. People want to love all Gods creatures and not be totally terrified of them. I feel I have learned to appreciate and RESPECT the black bear population. I think there are thousands out there that have learned this as well.

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