Burt keeps an ear and eye attuned to the nearby woods for other approaching bears, but he seems alternately apathetic to and engaged with the humans.

Rogers, 78, also known as “The Bear Man,” of the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely, Minnesota, is a legend among bear biologists and bear lovers. It’s me.” He approaches her with an outstretched hand of hazelnuts.

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“I wanted to do what Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey were doing,” he says.

(Goodall spent her career living amongst and studying chimpanzees in Tanzania and Kenya, and Fossey did the same with mountain gorillas in Rwanda.) So he spent years learning how to gain a bear’s trust, and to attach radio collars by talking to the bears and getting them to allow him to put on the collar (no tranquilizers or any sedation methods necessary), which frightened some of his co-workers, but ended up making him the subject of several documentaries, including the BBC-produced “Bearwalker of the Northwoods.” But feeding bears is one of the bones of contention between Rogers and his local wildlife management folks and one of the reasons Rogers lost his research permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which claimed, “Dr.

” Rogers said he started studying bears in 1965 when they “had varmint status, like a rat.” And he admitted to being afraid of bears when he first started, as he had grown up being told how dangerous they were.

“People would gut shoot them and it would take months for them to die this way.” He shakes his head and the sadness is evident in his watery eyes.

They only pick up one or two berries or nuts or ants at a time.” From a bag, Rogers scoops more peanuts into his hand as Burt attentively waits.

The big bear is surprisingly gentle, and he seems content to stand erect next to Rogers and eat nuts while the class members’ cameras click taking his photo.

Except instead of a tray, Rogers’ palm holds a single peanut.

“Up,” he says to the bear, and beast rises so he’s balancing on his hind legs.

The seven students have gathered from five states and England. Two nurses, a university librarian, two entrepreneurs and writers, an accountant and a lawyer/foreign service officer. The accepted wisdom among wildlife management agencies is that feeding bears makes them more dangerous to humans because they lose their fear of humans and may become dependent on human food.

What unites them is their interest in learning more about bears, and in this endeavor, they are not disappointed. with me.” To prove his point, he exits the cabin with a bag of hazelnuts, her favorites. But three months before this course, a six-year Colorado Parks and Wildlife black bear study reported results that challenge that core assumption and others about black bears.

Black bears only become defensive if they are terrified, and rarely do black bear sows with cubs act aggressive to humans.