ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources official says a report that Ely bear researcher Lynn Rogers gave tips to people in his "bear course" on feeding the animals from their mouths is "egregious."
Lou Cornicelli, who oversees research permitting for the DNR, read the instructions provided by a former course participant at a hearing Friday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1kkHtKH ).
Among instructions read aloud from Rogers' Wildlife Research Institute before a judge in St. Paul was "Tip Number 4: Don't offer bears food from your lips unless the bear is used to that."
After reading the instructions, Cornicelli said: "To me that's just egregious. ... You're teaching people how to feed a bear from your lips."
Friday's testimony and evidence are at the core of the DNR's allegations that Rogers' practices have created a public safety hazard and amounted to entertainment and tourism, not scientific research.
Last year, the DNR refused to renew Rogers' longstanding research permit, which allowed him to affix radio collars to bears and install video cameras in dens. Rogers has challenged the decision.
A fact-finding legal proceeding before the state's chief administrative law judge began on Feb. 24. It's similar to a trial, with state attorneys acting as prosecutors and Rogers' attorneys acting as defense.
Rogers' side has not yet given his case, and he declined to comment to the newspaper, saying he expects to testify, perhaps next week.
Course instructions also included advice for "reasonable safe hand-feeding" of bears.
"Keep the food coming at a rapid pace, handful after handful," Cornicelli read. The instructions, from 2011, advised participants to not feed bears one peanut at a time.
"Some bears may bite to tell you to keep the food coming. This might cause a bruise. ... It is not an attack," Cornicelli read at the hearing.
Rogers has maintained that hand-feeding bears is an essential part of building trust with them, allowing him to walk with wild bears in the woods of his study area between Tower and Ely in northern Minnesota. But the DNR says that trust not only acclimates bears to people, but also makes them see people as a source of food.
Earlier in the week, several residents of Eagle's Nest Township testified that they frequently have encounters with bears that approach them and their houses and refuse to leave unless pepper-sprayed.
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com