Anderson: Bears have been Garshelis' business

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 30, 2013 - 12:28 AM
hide

DNR employees Karen Noyce, Ken Soring and Dave Garshelis with No. 56, a 36-year-old blackbear that researchers have been monitoring for 29 years. DNR photo

Lynn Rogers, the Ely bear researcher whose lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources will have its first hearing Monday, perhaps has enjoyed more media attention in the past decade than any other animal scholar, of bears or otherwise.

So some observers might be surprised to learn the DNR employs one of the world’s foremost bear experts, Dave Garshelis, whose work often is conducted far from the media spotlight, out of an office in Grand Rapids, Minn.

Garshelis, whose expertise extends from Minnesota black bears to sun bears in Borneo and sloth bears in Nepal, seems unopposed to the relative obscurity.

A New Jersey native, he earned an undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of Vermont before gaining a master’s in bear biology from the University of Tennessee. His doctorate is from the U, where his focus — paradoxically, given his bear specialty — was sea otters.

“I could have continued with sea otters, but I would have had to move to Alaska, and my wife preferred not to,” Garshelis said Thursday from his office. “Which was OK. I’ve always had a strong interest in bears.”

Garshelis signed on with the DNR some 30 years ago as bear project leader, a title he still holds today. His one assistant, Karen Noyce, holds a master’s degree in wildlife biology.

Garshelis’ career spans a veritable lifetime of bear-management changes and challenges.

In 1982, for example, a year before he joined the DNR, a state bear hunting-permit quota system was instituted, thus beginning a complex Whac-A-Mole game that continues today as Garshelis and other wildlife managers attempt to match hunting pressure with various Minnesota subpopulations of bears.

“Keeping everyone happy regarding bears isn’t easy,” Garshelis said. “Some people think we have way too many. Others think we don’t have enough.”

In bad berry years, bears and bear managers alike suffer, and 1985 was horrific for blueberries and other food that bruins prefer. As a result, nuisance complaints skyrocketed as bears knocked over garbage cans and bird feeders, while also entering garages and other buildings, in some cases inside the Duluth city limits.

To minimize these conflicts, while attempting to optimize their overall bear-management strategies, Garshelis and Noyce research the animal’s food requirements, migration tendencies and health, among many other factors.

It was thought at one time, Garshelis said, that bears died most often because of starvation, or fighting among themselves, or for other natural reasons.

“It took quite a while to understand that what limits the bear population in Minnesota,” Garshelis said, “is hunting.”

Numbering about 20,000 a decade ago, Minnesota bears now hover at about 15,000. Wildlife managers reduced hunter permits this year by 36 percent in an attempt to boost the population.

But managing the state’s bears requires more than raising or lowering hunters’ harvest quotas. Northern Minnesota forests have aged considerably in the past 20 years, for example, and those alterations must be considered, along with the black bear’s seemingly endless range expansion in the state, among other factors.

“We’re studying now how far bears will migrate to the west and south,” Garshelis said. “Bears today extend almost to the North Dakota border, and while you might not expect it, bears in the northwest are the state’s healthiest. They’re the biggest, with the highest reproductive rates. Yet the region is only 20 percent forested.”

From diet studies on Minnesota black bears, Garshelis and Noyce have produced “calorie maps” of the northern part of the state, showing food availability in various regions.

They’ve also implanted heart-rate monitors in bears to determine how much energy the animals are willing to expend to cross poor habitat — say 2 miles of hayfields — to reach new country.

These and other investigations help Garshelis and Noyce estimate the size of future bear populations, given the state’s various landscape changes, past, present and future.

Helping the two researchers periodically are grad students that Garshelis advises as an unpaid adjunct associate professor at the U.

Garshelis also peer-reviews about 30 scholarly papers submitted for publication each year, and regularly travels worldwide to study … more bears.

“It started in 1989 with a friend from graduate school who was studying tigers in Nepal,” Garshelis said. “He told me about sloth bears and threats to them. That sparked an interest. Now, of the world’s eight bear species, I’ve studied seven.”

And his wife, Judy, who wouldn’t move to Alaska?

“She agreed I could spend three weeks a year of my vacation studying bears elsewhere,” Garshelis said. “I want to help make the world a better place, and undertaking these additional projects allows me to do that.”

 

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 1 FINAL
Minnesota 3
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 105
Phoenix 105 FINAL
Orlando 100
Cleveland 120 FINAL
Toronto 112
Utah 84 FINAL
Boston 85
Charlotte 115 FINAL
Brooklyn 91
Denver 100 FINAL
Minnesota 85
Detroit 85 FINAL
New Orleans 88
LA Lakers 94 FINAL
Miami 100
Philadelphia 118 FINAL
Oklahoma City 123
Memphis 102 FINAL
Houston 100
Sacramento 85 FINAL
San Antonio 112
Milwaukee 93 FINAL
Golden State 102
Portland 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Ottawa 3 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
NY Rangers 1 FINAL(OT)
Detroit 2
Pittsburgh 1 FINAL
Colorado 3
Montreal 1 FINAL
Anaheim 3
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 70 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 80
Ohio State 77 FINAL
Penn State 67
Maine 66 FINAL
Albany 83
Duquesne 81 FINAL
Fordham 66
George Washington 67 FINAL
George Mason 51
Tennessee 78 FINAL
LSU 63
Notre Dame 71 FINAL
Louisville 59
SE Missouri St 74 FINAL
Morehead State 79
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Mount St Marys 58
Hartford 63 FINAL
New Hampshire 67
Wagner 68 FINAL
Robert Morris 91
Long Island 70 FINAL
St Francis-NY 79
La Salle 50 FINAL
Saint Josephs 55
Providence 79 FINAL
Seton Hall 66
UCF 45 FINAL
South Florida 74
Binghamton 57 FINAL
Stony Brook 62
UMBC 39 FINAL
Vermont 66
Sacred Heart 85 FINAL
Bryant 91
Richmond 56 FINAL
Massachusetts 53
Wake Forest 51 FINAL
Duke 94
Purdue 66 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Miami-Florida 67 FINAL
Pittsburgh 63
St Bonaventure 64 FINAL
Saint Louis 48
New Mexico St 69 FINAL
TX-Pan American 48
Houston 68 FINAL
Tulane 63
Howard 62 FINAL
NJIT 71
TCU 70 FINAL
Oklahoma State 82
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
Tulsa 47
USC 74 FINAL
UCLA 85
Miss State 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Utah State 53 FINAL
Wyoming 76
St Johns 67 FINAL
Marquette 51
SIU Edwardsville 66 FINAL
Eastern Ill 78
Air Force 66 FINAL
Fresno State 68
Nebraska 57 FINAL
Illinois 69
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Nevada 62
Boise State 68 FINAL
San Jose St 51
San Diego St 60 FINAL
UNLV 58
Oregon 65 FINAL
Oregon State 62
UC Santa Barbara 98 FINAL
Hawaii 90
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 55 FINAL
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 71 FINAL
Florida 49
Penn State 63 FINAL
Indiana 68
Clemson 53 FINAL
Georgia Tech 80
Davidson 63 FINAL
La Salle 74
Loyola-Maryland 46 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Boston U 48 FINAL
Colgate 58
Coll of Charleston 58 FINAL
James Madison 107
Delaware 76 FINAL
Elon 77
Drexel 58 FINAL
Northeastern 42
Hofstra 75 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 76
Towson 56 FINAL
William & Mary 68
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Akron 67
Ball State 85 FINAL
Central Michigan 69
Buffalo 55 FINAL
Bowling Green 47
Western Mich 65 FINAL
Eastern Michigan 74
Ohio U 69 FINAL
Kent State 56
Youngstown St 62 FINAL
Cleveland State 73
Illinois-Chicago 54 FINAL
Wright State 74
Alabama 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 66
Detroit 60 FINAL
Milwaukee 56
Purdue 58 FINAL
Wisconsin 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close