Black Bear Field Study

Summer 2015
with Lynn Rogers, PhD and Sue Mansfield, MS

Course description: TLynn Rogers PhDLynn Rogers PhDhe Black Bear Field Study courses emphasize daily up-close observation of wild bears to learn their vocalizations, body language, social organization, ecology, and how people can better coexist with bears. Courses are held at the Northwoods Research Center located west of Ely, Minnesota. Participants are housed on site for maximum participation and total immersion in bears. The small class size (8) maximizes individual opportunities to learn under the guidance of Lynn Rogers, Ph.D., as seen on the Animal Planet documentary "The Man Who Walks With Bears" and the BBC documentary 'Bearwalker of the Northwoods.' Daily discussions, presentations, and field trips serve to amplify the information learned directly from the bears.

Sue Mansfield MSSue Mansfield MSParticipants include anyone interested in bears. These workshops are life-changing for anyone who fears bears, unforgettable for people who appreciate bears, and essential for professionals who deal with bear issues. Click here for Participants' Comments.

Lorie Kennedy and Mike JohnsonLorie Kennedy & Mike JohnsonLynn Rogers, PhD began his bear research in 1967 and will lead most of the discussions and field excursions. Click here for his curriculum vitae. Sue Mansfield, MS has worked with Dr. Rogers since 2001. An expert on wildlife sign and a contributor to the book "Mammal Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species," Sue leads a session on bear sign that will forever change the way you perceive the woods. Research assistants Lorie Kennedy and Mike Johnson conduct fieldwork for WRI and assist with Bear Courses.  They know the bears well, and one or the other of them will be present to assist during each course.

Each course begins with lunch at noon on Sunday and ends Wednesday at 11 AM.

Course Fee:  $2500 ($2350 tax deductible).  A non-refundable deposit of $1250 is due at registration with the balance of $1250 due 2 months prior to course date.  Fee includes course materials, certificate of completion, receipt for the tax-deductible portion of the fee, and lodging and meals at Northwoods Research Center.  The Wildlife Research Institute is a nonprofit (501(c)(3)).  The deductible $2350 is the portion beyond actual expenses and is considered a donation to further our research and education program. 

Cancellation Policy:  Deposits are returned (minus a $250 administration fee) only if the cancelled spots can be filled.  If the cancelled spots cannot be filled, the deposits may be deferred and applied to any course in the following year.

Contact: Please email any questions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Edited:  December 29, 2014

Course Schedule

  • We keep the schedule flexible to accommodate for weather conditions and take advantage of research and observational opportunities as they arise.

    • 10:00AM – Noon – Arrive and settle in. Sign paperwork.
    • Noon – Family-style lunch served. Each person shares a little of their background and what they hope to get out of the course. We talk about the bears we may meet and discuss appropriate behavior to minimize bears’ fears. Discuss plans for the afternoon.
    • Afternoon – Lecture/Field Trip 
    • 6:00 PM – Family-style supper served. Review events of the day and plan for tomorrow.
    • Evening – Bear-viewing at Northwoods Research Center to observe interactions, vocalizations, body language, personalities, timidness, etc.
  • Every day is different and unpredictable as we find new bears doing new things.
    • 8:00 AM – Hearty family-style breakfast served. Discuss plans for the morning.
    • Morning – Lecture/Field Trip 
    • Noon – Family-style lunch served. Discuss plans for the afternoon.
    • Afternoon – Lecture/Field Trip 
    • 6:00 PM – Family-style supper served. Review events of the day and plan for tomorrow.
    • Evening – Bear-viewing at Northwoods Research Center to observe interactions, vocalizations, body language, personalities, timidness, etc.
  • Time for good-byes. 
    • 8:00 AM – Hearty family-style breakfast served. Packing. Group pictures.
    • 9:30 AM – Head for the North American Bear Center for a behind the scenes tour and presentation of course certificates.
    • 11:00 AM – Course ends. Participants often remain at the Bear Center to take in more exhibits.
  • In addition to the numerous spontaneous discussions and Q&A sessions led by the WRI Staff, the following formal lectures and field trips are offered.

    Why We Fear Bears
    – exploring our fears about bears and learning about bear behavior, communication, etc. (Lynn Rogers, Ph.D.)

    Walking with Bears – What is it like to walk with a mother black bear and her cubs? What has been learned through this research method?  A presentation illustrated with video footage. (Sue Mansfield, MS)

    Bear Sign – Learn to identify and interpret the marks left when bears bite, rub, claw, stomp, dig, forage, and play. An illustrative presentation is followed by a field trip to search for bear sign. (Sue Mansfield, MS)

    Radio Telemetry – Learn the basics of radio telemetry then travel back roads to triangulate the location of a radio-collar. Once mapped, class participants will home in on the signal to retrieve the collar—like researchers do to locate wild bears. (Lorie Kennedy/Mike Johnson)

    Bear Dens – Hike or canoe bear country to explore bear dens of all kinds—rock, root-mound, dug, brush pile, etc. (Lynn Rogers PhD/Lorie Kennedy/Mike Johnson)

    Life on the Lake – Board the 24-foot pontoon boat for a cruise around Eagles Nest Lakes One and Two to observe wildlife—loons, ducks, eagles, etc.—and visit a bear den. (Lynn Rogers, PhD)

  • "You can read about it, watch videos, visit the NABC, stay up all night on a web cam, but until you are in the field with Lynn and Sue, you cannot begin to appreciate the trust that these wild bears have for them."
    Bitsy and Bill S. – Wisconsin 2012

  • "There are many myths about black bears, so it was eye-opening to learn about these timid animals from two dedicated experts."
    Betty and Dennis M. – Minnesota 2012

  • "It was a truly life-changing event for me to be able to learn directly from the researchers and see amazing bears in their own habitats. This was a priceless opportunity I will remember forever."
    Jasmine D – Michigan 2012

  • "Although I have always been deeply connected to nature and have had respect for all animals, this program was life altering for me. I learned so much about the behavior of Black Bears that I have a new profound view of the wholeness of nature—and the important role I play in educating people…"
    Beth M. – Pennsylvania 2013

  • "It was an incredible few days of emersion in the study of black bears. I learned so much. I love to photograph black bears in the wild. …the field study course has improved my bear photography immensely."
    Jackie O – North Carolina 2012

  • "It was especially great to get to see the bears at the research cabin because there were so many behaviours to observe—and it was fantastic to have Lynn, Sue and Mike there to explain them."
    Clare W – UK 2014

  • "Upon returning to Arkansas, I prepared a photo slide presentation.... My students were very much engaged with my bear presentation, stopping me several times during my talk to ask questions about the bears and their behavior. I have even had students change their career choice after hearing my black bear field course experience."
    Tom W. – Arkansas 2013



Accommodations include a room with 2 twin beds on the first floor, a set of bunk beds on the second floor, and 2 twin beds and a set of bunk beds on the third floor as well as a full size futon couch which can be used as a bed. There are 3 bathrooms (2 with showers).


Hearty meals are served family-style.  Every attempt is made to accommodate diet preferences and restrictions.


We provide all transportation during course activities. Course participants are responsible for their own transportation to and from the Northwoods Research Center.

Before Arriving

We will answer your questions, address your concerns, send directions and suggestions of what to bring, and help you hook up with other participants to share transportation from the airports.