MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Embattled bear researcher Lynn Rogers is hoping to take his fight to the top. He said Wednesday he's trying to get a meeting with Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to appeal a decision by the Department of Natural Resources not to renew his permits to radio-collar wild bears and place video cameras in their dens.
Rogers has gained a devoted following on the Internet for his work hand-feeding bears to gain their trust and live-streaming the birth of cubs. But DNR officials say he's made wild bears too comfortable around humans and question the scientific value of his work.
Donations to a legal fund started by his supporters had topped $9,000 as of Wednesday and around 5,000 people had signed a petition on Change.org asking the DNR to change its mind.
"What I'm looking for is just plain fairness," Rogers said in a telephone interview from the North American Bear Center, a tourist attraction he helped found in the northeastern Minnesota city of Ely, where the City Council on Tuesday voted to ask the DNR and Dayton to reinstate Rogers' permits.
Rogers said he spoke with Dayton staffers last week and was expecting a callback that hadn't materialized as of Wednesday afternoon. He said he tried calling a cellphone number he had for Dayton several times, but the call didn't go through.
Dayton spokesman Bob Hume said the governor had not received a formal request for a meeting from Rogers, but that Dayton would meet with him if he does. The governor has been working a limited schedule for the past week and a half while he recovers from a hip injury and has not held any public events.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr told Rogers in a letter last week that his agency had repeatedly warned him about its public safety concerns and said they "greatly outweighed" any potential benefit from his research. The DNR ordered Rogers to remove the radio collars from his study bears by July 31. He's currently licensed for 12 collars.
Rogers, 74, said the decision against renewing his permits will spell the end of his 46-year career if it stands. He said he has not yet begun removing the collars in hopes that Dayton will hear him out and find a solution.
Rogers maintains that the DNR is wrong when it says he hasn't produced adequate peer-reviewed published research, and when it says the black bears he's collared near Ely have become too aggressive around people and too accustomed to seeking food from them. And he disputes whether the DNR really has received as many complaints from the public as agency officials say.
"The DNR for years has been trying to build a case against our research," Rogers said. "And if it was a legitimate case, that's one thing. But when they're falsifying bear complaints and making distorted comments to the public, that's not a case."