|UM-C Student Chris Anderson|
Agassiz Audubon volunteers got an invitation to join University of Minnesota scientist Mark Ditmer and DNR bear biologists Karen Noyce and Dave Garshelis on their annual winter bear den check in northwestern Minnesota.
Black bears are slowly pushing westward into the agricultural landscape of northwestern Minnesota – the western fringe of this animal’s Minnesota range. The DNR-University of Minnesota research team has been studying why - and how these bears are adapting to their new habitat.
They use high-tech GPS collars that relay movements of bears to the researchers in near-real time.
When they get to the dens, scientists sedate the bears and then check their general health and their heart monitors – tiny subcutaneous implants that provide data for scientists from Medtronic and the University of Minnesota’s Visible Heart Lab who are studying the physiology of hibernation. The researchers also collect hair samples to take back to the lab to analyze - to how much corn is in the bears' diet.
Chris Anderson, a UM-Crookston student, was one of several volunteers who took turns keeping the cubs warm, while the scientists checked out a sow. “It was awesome to get this close to these bears,” said Anderson. “This was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in northwestern Minnesota.”