Black Bear Field Study

Summer 2014
with Lynn Rogers, PhD and Sue Mansfield, MS

Course description: Courses emphasize daily observation of wild bears to learn their vocalizations, body language, social organization, ecology, and how people can better coexist with bears. The small class size (8) maximizes individual opportunities to participate in black bear research with 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 and slide presentations amplify the information learned directly from the bears.

Participants 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.

Lynn Rogers, Ph.D., has conducted field research on bears since 1967 and will lead most of the field excursions. Click here for his curriculum vitae. Sue Mansfield completed her Master's through Antioch University New England and has been conducting fieldwork with Dr. Rogers since 2001. She knows the kinship relations among the 50+ bears in the study area and knows each bear's individual personality. She monitors the movements of a radio-collared clan and frequently accompanies trusting individuals for 10-12 hours at a time to learn details of their lives. An expert on wildlife sign and a contributor to the book "Mammal Tracks and Sign: A Guide to North American Species," Sue will show us bear sign and describe how it was made. Sue also knows many of the birds and plants in the area.

Courses are conducted at the Northwoods Research Center and surrounding forest west of Ely, Minnesota. Each course begins on Sunday at 4 PM and ends on Wednesday at 10 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:  July 7, 2014

Course Schedule

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

    • 4:00-6:00 PM – Arrive. Introductions. Get settled in.
    • 5:00 PM – Family-style dinner served as soon after 5:00 PM as folks are ready. 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.
    • 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 and/or Field Trip (see list below)
    • Noon – Family-style lunch served. Discuss plans for the afternoon.
    • Afternoon – Lecture and/or Field Trip (see list below)
    • 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. Presentation of certificates. Group pictures.
    • 9:30 AM – Head for the North American Bear Center for a behind the scenes tour.
    • 10:30 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 are offered.

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

    Bear Biology – bear ecology, physiology, social organization, and reproduction (Lynn Rogers, Ph.D.)

  • Radio-locating Bears – travel back roads to locate radio-collared bears, observe trust-based research methods in action, learn individual bear personalities, observe mothers and cubs, etc. (offered multiple times per course – Lynn Rogers, Ph.D.)

    Identify and Interpret Bear Sign – learn to identify the marks left when bears bite, rub, claw, stomp, dig, forage, etc. (offered once per course – Sue Mansfield, MS)

    Bear Dens – hike or canoe bear country to explore bear dens of all kinds—rock, root-mound, dug, brush pile, etc.

    Life on the Lake – board the 24-foot pontoon boat for a cruise around Eagles Nest Lake to observe wildlife—loons, ducks, swans, eagles, osprey, etc.

  • "These courses have provided us with a greater understanding of the behavior of black bears in the wild and—being scientists ourselves—an appreciation of the research that is ongoing at the WRI."
    Irma and Bill F – Delaware 2012

  • "The Black Bear Field Study course was wonderful!! The knowledge and caring both Dr. Lynn Rogers and Sue Mansfield demonstrated goes beyond anything I anticipated."
    Jennie R. – Connecticut 2013

  • "I grew up in the Pacific Northwest, where my Grandmother lived on property by a lake. She had a bearskin rug in her cabin. She had shot that bear. That was my early view of bears and danger. It was a reality of the times. My trip to Ely was a total contradiction of my upbringing..."
    Susan D. – Pennsylvania 2013

  • "I have traveled extensively, but I consider my experiences at the Wildlife Research Institute (WRI) and the Black Bear Field Courses trips of a lifetime. I look forward to returning to the WRI and attending another Black Bear Field Course!!"
    Flo L. – Michigan 2012 and 2013

  • "I was in the bear study just before the 4th of July of 2013. I looked forward to it in the biggest way. I was not disappointed. I learned tons about bears. To be able to see the bears in their own back yard was phenomenal. I work in a school and believe me I brought back tons of information."
    Bill C. – North Dakota 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

  • "I was surprised at how much misinformation is out there about bears and happy I am now on the right track to better understanding these majestic animals, especially if I should see one while hiking or have one show up in my yard."
    Mary C. – Maryland 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.