Minnesota DNR Shouldn’t Put Bear Hunters In This Position

Ely-area research bear killed

A radio-collared bear associated with the North American Bear Center in Ely has apparently been killed, despite a call for hunters to spare the collared-bears.

The blood-spattered collar of a yearling named Sarah was anonymously dropped off in a Department of Natural Resources mailbox Tuesday morning, said Sue Mansfield, a biologist at the Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center.

“It’s hard, it’s just so hard,” she said.

Read the entire news story HERE.

I just don’t get it.   Last week [and again today] the Minnesota DNR issues this news release asking for Minnesota’s bear hunters to avoid shooting radio-collared bears that are being used for various research projects in Minnesota.   Of course, as the story above eludes to, someone within our hunting ranks apparently didn’t get the memo.   More importantly, their actions are making the rest of us hunters look bad and that deeply concerns me.

Who do I blame for this?   Of course, it seems only logical to blame the person who killed the bear.   Even though they broke no Minnesota laws his/her actions are being viewed very negatively by the non-hunting public.   Moreover, the person shooting the bear should have admitted his/her mistake by reporting it properly (as requested to do so in the news release) rather than doing the cowardly thing of just anonymously dropping off the bloodied collar at some DNR office.

But let’s set those details aside for just a moment.   I blame the Minnesota DNR for even putting us hunters in that position.   Seriously, if you’re going to make a big deal out of this then why not make the act of killing a research bear a violation of law or rule.   Certainly the MN DNR Commissioner could have promulgated such an order.   Instead, issuing press releases asking for cooperation that subsequently doesn’t get followed damages our reputation as an entire class of sportsmen.

The point is if you don’t want fluorescently collared research bears killed then make it a game violation so the person who doesn’t follow the desired rules gets properly labeled—”poacher” or “game law violator.”   Instead, the person who committed this act gets named as a “hunter” and that makes us all out to appear as untrustworthy, blood-thirsty, uncaring individuals who fail to play by any ethical rules set forth for our sport.

Oh, sure, I know what the DNR is thinking…by not having the shooting of a research bear a law violation it gives the hunter who legitimately makes a mistake some slack.   I’d buy that thinking…except for the fact now in S.E. Minnesota the DNR expects me to count a deer’s antlers to make sure it qualifies as a legal buck.   Surely most hunters would agree the task of identifying a brightly colored collar on a bear is easier to determine than counting points on a buck at a distance.   Agree?

Believe me, I’m not defending the person who shot the research bear in any way.   I rather think their behavior totally lacked good judgment throughout this entire incident.

Yet, if the Minnesota DNR would have made the killing of a research bear a wildlife violation, then the perpetrator of such an act would be distinguished from the 99.8% of the other sportsmen who participate in our sport faithfully playing by the rules.   Instead, all hunters must now endure the public backlash because someone, acting entirely within their legal rights to do so, chose not to act in a reasonable manner by letting Sarah the bear live so her life could be further studied.

©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Court Decides: Crow Wing Co. landowner can keep black bear carcass

If a big black bear dies in the woods on private property, who gets the carcass?

via www.startribune.com

Today, the Minnesota Appellate Court found that a landowner who had found a dead bear on his property was entitled to the ownership of the carcass (which died of natural causes).   The Minnesota DNR had originally confiscated the carcass and issued the landowner a warning stating that the State of Minnesota owns the animal and it's possession was a violation of state law.

So, how could this ruling impact the future enforcement of poaching statutes in Minnesota?   No doubt about it, the court ruling could significantly change the ballgame in terms who claims legitimate ownership of a dead wild animal.   Precedence has now been set that an animal possessed dying naturally on private land can be legally claimed by that landowner without a hunting, fishing or trapping license or having registered the animal.

Expect much more to come on this issue…

©2010 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior

Rubutting A Blog Post On Trapping

This blog post is in direct response to Bill Klein’s recent posting on Club Outdoors where he describes an incident involving his dog getting caught in a trap.   You can read his comments HERE in their entirety.

First off, I want to begin by saying that I deeply regret that Bill’s new black lab, Doc, got caught in a trap and that Bill had to endure this truly unfortunate experience.   I can understandably appreciate why he is upset about the events, however, I take great umbrage to the manner in which he channels his emotion.   Let me repeat so this is NOT FORGOTTEN.   I regret Bill had to endure this experience with his black lab and I do not want this statement lost in any of the comments I am about to make in this rebuttal.

I don’t know much about trapping but this much I do know:  whoever wrote the ad appearing in the DNR’s Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook teaching “how to release a domestic animal from a trap” has never actually faced that situation.

Bill, first off, the instructions featured on page 53 of the 2009 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook describes a procedure on how to release a domestic animal from a body-gripping trap (often called a Conibear trap).   The reason these instructions are even included in the synopsis is because this type of trap, when used properly, is intended to kill the animal that is caught.   In other words, time is of the essence in removing the animal and if you’re not familiar with the operation of such a trap this paid advertisement by the Minnesota Trappers Association offers some basic information towards that end.

…The Minnesota Trappers Association ad in the rule book says: Step One: Remain calm and speak soothingly to the dog.  There’s our first clue that the ad writer is clueless.

As a long-time member of the Minnesota Trappers Association I can assure you this assertion made on your part is totally without merit.   The leaders of the MTA are some of the most upstanding and experienced trappers to be found anywhere in this country.   Their advice is sound and proven.   Again, your leg hold trap shown in the picture IS NOT the same type of trap for which this paid advertisement explains a release procedure.   This should be evident by comparing the instructional graphics to your picture.

I ultimately had to leave my dog trapped, run home, get a bolt cutter and my tractor, cut the trap chain and carry Doc, with trap still attached, home in the bucket of my tractor.  A crow bar finally freed him.

With all due respect, as someone familiar with traps and trapping, your choice of actions were a gross over reaction in my estimation.   Cutting the trap chain and carrying the dog (with trap still attached) home in the bucket of a tractor—you really think these actions were necessary, not to mention safe for the dog?   Furthermore, the manner in which YOU CHOSE to handle this situation sensationalizes an already unfortunate incident.   Seriously, a “crow bar” to free your dog?   C’mon, Bill…if you used such equipment to open a leg-hold trap you likely inflicted unnecessary pain on your dog by attempting to pry the jaws apart.   I’m sorry if you couldn’t get the jaws opened by simply stepping on the release levers…but in my experience it takes very little effort or strength to accomplish this task.   Oh, and by the way…I have a trap shed with dozens of traps just like the one shown.   Many have 4–springs and not just 2 like the one that caught Doc.   I know what I’m talking about.

Next day I found the trapper and determined he had no license, no ID on his traps, was setting his snare traps far above 16” off the ground, was setting traps in deer trails and, finally, gave me a false name.

Did you call the Conservation Officer and get him involved?   There’s no mention of that happening in your story.   You state how you found the trapper and how you determined he had no license.   It just seems to me that had a CO been acting in this capacity rather than you our sporting community as a whole would have been much better off.   Not only was this guy trespassing, he did not have proper identification on his traps plus a whole host of other law violations.   You state he gave you a false name.   Wonderful.   Too bad the name wasn’t given to the CO instead, because that would have been yet another law violation.   To you…he’s under no legal obligation to provide any of those facts.   To a law enforcement officer he cannot lie.

But the bigger issue here is whether dry land snare and spring loaded traps should be allowed at all in the Twin City seven-county area.  Certainly trapping has its place.  But is that place where people and dogs are likely to confront them?

The point totally being missed in your assertion that trapping should be outlawed is how you encountered one law violator and chose to paint the entire trapping community with negativism and misguided information for the sole purpose to make a point in your blog post.


Okay, Bill…let me ask you this.   Forget everything I’ve just said and let’s change this scenario just a bit.   If rather than a trapper let’s say a wandering pheasant hunter was on your property and broke a window in your shed with stray pellets…would you call for the abolishment of pheasant hunting?   Or how about a deer hunter who shoots at a deer clearly on your property when he’s hunting a neighbor’s land?   Should we do away with deer hunting because a few individuals each year engage in unethical and illegal activities in their sport?


I guess more than anything I’m deeply disappointed in your breaking the unwritten sportsman’s code of behavior by letting your emotions clearly cloud your good judgment.   Rather than focus on the criminal acts and call them out solely for what they were…instead you chose to condemn a very proud, responsible and legal trapping heritage that many of us enjoy without these sort of incidents.


Indeed, in my opinion, your decision to focus disparaging remarks directed toward the trapping community as a whole is equally as unfortunate as the incident that most recently occurred to your dog, Doc.