Dr. Lynn Rogers has spent 35 years of his adult life in the forests of northern Minnesota researching the ways of the black bear. Sociobiologist E. O. Wilson has compared Rogers' work with that of Jane Goodall, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, and George Schaller as one of the "four major pioneering studies of large mammals." Dr. Rogers has developed research methods for gaining the trust of bears and redefined scientific understanding of this misunderstood animal. His stunning photographs are testaments to the extraordinary nature of his research into an extraordinary animal. Proceeds benefit the Wildlife Research Institute. Dr. Rogers has published over 100 articles. He has appeared on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic Explorer's "Bear Talk," PBS' Nature, and is the subject of Animal Planet's documentary: "The Man Who Walks With Bears."
Since 1971, Dr. Rogers has conducted research through the nonprofit Wildlife Research Institute with the objective of educating people on what wild bears are really like. By 1993, using radiotelemetry, he had closely tracked 111 bears and as many as four generations of different family groups. His research subjects include one bear who lived to be 30 years old, another over 20 years, lifespans that are unexpectedly long in wild bears.
"It took many years for me to overcome the brain-washing I grew up with about bears. Finally, I began to interpret their body language and vocalizations in terms of their fears rather than my fears, and I found that I could build trusting relationships with these intelligent wild animals," said Dr. Rogers.
Without using tranquilizers, he places radio-collars on bears. He walks with bears, including mothers and cubs, for 24 hours at a time, recording their activities. In winter dens, he has used infrared video cameras to discover how mothers care for newborn cubs when temperatures are far below zero. He has demonstrated that black bears maintain a matriarchal society in which the females bequeath parts of their territory to their female offspring, and the daughters maintain the territory after the mother's passing. He was the first researcher to draw blood from wild hibernating bears, which is helping scientists to understand how bears remain in good physical condition during their long winters when they don't eat, drink, or evacuate body wastes.
In the mid-1980s, he began living with bears. Beyond understanding their biology, he wanted to see how bears and people could live in close proximity, since people were coming into more frequent contact with bears through activities like hiking and camping, and because increasingly homes were being built in bear territories.
"People are moving into bear country at an unprecedented rate, and their attitudes will determine the future of bears that live around them," said Dr. Rogers. "Sharing factual research information with the public is important because the more people know, the more tolerant they become toward bears," he said.
With more frequent encounters between humans and bears, occasionally people have been attacked. However, during his research while living with bears, Dr. Rogers learned that their fearsome behavior, such as chomping their teeth, flattening their ears, huffing, blowing, and lunging or charging, is most often a bluff, intended to scare the intruder away. He was the first to test capsaicin, the active ingredient in cayenne pepper, on wild bears, and capsaicin is now widely used as bear repellant. His recent research is focused on bear conservation in an increasingly urbanized environment.
"New England has become a bright spot in the bear world. New Englanders are among the most highly educated in the world, and they are allowing bears to return to areas where they haven't been seen for over 100 years," said Dr. Rogers.
Dr. Rogers earned his Ph.D. in Ecology and Behavioral Biology from the University of Minnesota. Awards include the Quality Research Award from the U.S. Forest Service, and the Anna M. Jackson Award from the American Society of Mammalogists. Dr. Rogers helped establish bear research at the Wildlife Research Institute (www.bearstudy.org) and the North American Bear Center (www.bear.org).
Text written by Carol Davidge at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History to promote a slideshow/lecture by Dr Lynn Rogers 10/27/2002.