Meet the Jane Goodall of Bears
Dr. Lynn Rogers has spent years proving it’s safe to get up close and personal with wild black bears. Now he’s teaching others how to do it.
Photos by Kristie Burns
“Hi, bear. It’s me, bear,” Dr. Lynn Rogers says as he approaches a 350-pound wild black bear that he’s named Burt. Rogers’ palm is upward near his ear, like a waiter balancing a tray of food high above the heads of diners. 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 bear is a few inches taller than Rogers, who stands over six feet, and much broader. Burt’s long pink tongue darts from his mouth and he grabs the peanut from Rogers’ hand with his tongue’s underside. He crunches once and the shell, now in two pieces, comes spitting out both sides of his mouth and lands on the wooden porch. Rogers says to his class of seven students, who have assembled at a three-story cabin in the woods in the northernmost reaches of Minnesota, just miles from the Canadian border, “Bears have a spot on the underside of their tongues that they use to pick up food. They only pick up one…
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