Bear dogs are here to save the bears

Karelian Bear Dogs are now scaring away bears (while protecting them).

Rangers are now using bear dogs to help chase away encroaching bears. The people of Novaya Zemlya (in Russia) recently faced a new problem- dozens of polar bears descended in the Russian archipelago. Everyone was clueless and afraid when the bears ruined their homes and buildings. Bears are an endangered species, and according to federal law, it is illegal to shoot them. Oil companies have also begun large scale expansion into bear territory. Scientists are now figuring out ways to allow development, while looking out for the majestic bears.

According to Alan Myers from the Fish and Wildlife department at Washington, when a bear shows up at a dump, there are only two options. either One is to corner the animal and kill it. The other is to euthanise the animal and keep it for However, Carrie Hunt, a bear biologist, is on a mission to find non-lethal methods to avoid human-bear conflicts. She was inspired by how dogs can be used to scare the bear away. Wildlife rangers at Wind River Bear Institute, Florence, trained dogs to become “bear shepherds.” They bark at the bears when they get close to human settlements, scaring them away. 

Using bear dogs to scare bears away

Since then the wildlife agencies across the US and Canada have turned to dogs as an alternative to controlling bear territories. They work along with the officers. Several national parks have contracted bear dogs too. Bears are afraid of the canines because the pack can steal their cubs. The most common breed of dog to be trained is a white and black Karelian working bear dog. The Wind River Bear institute breeds and sells trained dogs and also gives them out to agencies on contracts.

How do dogs help the bears?

Rich Beausoleil, a wildlife biologist from Washington, confirms that thousands of bears have been spared from bullets, other lethal and non-lethal techniques. These dogs are particularly helpful when a bear gets acquainted with a particular spot. The wildlife rangers trap the bear and then get the dogs. They bark at the animal and scare them to never come back to the location. After the dogs have barked for a while, the bear cage is opened, the bears boogie out like a rocket. Sometimes even rubber bullets or a round of beanbags are fired before releasing the dogs on the bears. The dogs track, bark, and nip the bear invasion at its heel before the handlers call them back.

The bears, by this time, hopefully, learned its lesson and won’t wander in the place anymore. Beausoleil also confirmed that in his 20 years of experience, no dog has been injured in the process. The safety of the dogs is of utmost importance for Hunt too. 

Pedersen, another wildlife ranger, has grown along with the bear dogs. He has formed a close bond with Soledad, a Keralian bear. Soledad is a huntress, and their personalities compliment each other perfectly. Together they have released many bears. Soledad can even sniff out of polar bear dens. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, oil and gas field managers have to establish a mile wide buffer area around the dens of polar bears to prevent activities until hibernation. Soledad smells polar bears coming closer to humans and informs the rangers, helping the process along very well. 

Other help from our canine friends

Bear dogs are also helpful in solving wildlife crimes. They help in the poaching investigation. The dogs can locate the carcass in less than 40 minutes, which humans could take more than 100 hours. Despite the enthusiasm, Keralian dogs are not suited for all kinds of settings. They cannot work effectively in populated areas. Allowing them to run across public spaces and chase the bear out is not a good idea. Further, training dogs is a lot of work. Sometimes, rangers find it easier to kill a bear than invest time and resources in the training program.

Source: https://on.natgeo.com/2WXvz2d