World-renowned researcher speaks about misconceptions of bears

KEWEENAW — Forget everything you know about bears. ABC 10’s Keweenaw Bureau Reporter Rick Allen has more on how one expert is changing the way people think of them.

Black bears are vicious man–eating animals, that’s just one of the many misconceptions a world–renowned bear expert wants to clear up. Research Biologist Lynn Rogers gave a presentation at Michigan Tech Tuesday to educate people on the softer side of bears.

Rogers said, “I grew up afraid of bears and as I started studying them, I started to realize that everything I thought about them was wrong, and I’m like just about everybody else in my original beliefs.”

The event was part of a series of “Wildlife Through Forestry” forums, put on by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. A Michigan native, Rogers has spent 50 years studying bears, mainly in the northeastern parts of Minnesota.

He set out to do what he describes as kinder, gentler research.

Often compared with Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees, Rogers studied bears up close while among them, something that was not easy to do at first.

Rogers said, “It took me 20 years to get over my fear and that’s why most people don’t do the kind of research that I do, is that they don’t get to get to have a lifetime career to really get into knowing the language of bears, being able to read them, and realize that they mean no harm. Like I’d see a bear that would be nervous, it’d pounce at me, slap the ground, blow, and pretty soon I realized that just means the bear is feeling anxiety, wants to talk about it and will not attack.”

You can learn a lot more about bears at the website for the North American Bear Center or The Wildlife Research Institute, where you can take a black bear field course this summer.