Bears are curious creatures, so they’re often found wandering in areas they shouldn’t. Because of the Isom Creek Fire in Alaska, these bears are even more at risk now. Bears are commonly found near wildland fires, so it’s important to lead them to an area that’s safer for them and for humans.
Redirecting these bears is the important job of a group of Karelian Bear Dogs. The Wind River Bear Institute trains these dogs to detect and herd bears. These dogs are amazing at their jobs, and this is their first time working during an Alaskan wildland fire.
What Do These Dogs Do?
There are lots of ways to prevent bears from wandering near people. Keeping campsites clean and playing loud music are just some methods of keeping bears away. However, bears will still act curious from time to time. This often leads them toward dangerous situations for both humans and bears alike. That’s where these dogs come in. Karelian Bear Dogs are one of the best breeds for tracking wildlife.
These specially trained Karelian Bear Dogs can pick up the scent of a bear from about a half mile away. They have even been known to catch the scent in a vehicle moving 60 miles per hour. So, their handlers will walk them around on a leash or ride around in a truck to patrol for bears in the area.
When a Karelian Bear Dog smells a bear, they will bark to alert their handlers. Their barking will become louder and more intense the stronger the scent is. Then, once the bear is within sight, the dogs are able to herd the bear away from danger. They will lead the bear toward an area that’s in the best interest of the bear and of any nearby humans. The goal of this is to limit the public’s interaction with wildlife, making it safer for everyone involved.
It can take up to 4 years to fully train a dog for this task. So, this company carefully selects their Karelian Bear Dogs as puppies and starts training them as soon as possible. The puppies need to have a strong working aptitude and a willingness to train.
How are They Helping the Wildland Fire?
Nils Pedersen is one of the handlers for the dogs, and he has been working on addressing human-bear conflict since 2011. He’s very knowledgeable about the Isom Creek Fire, especially in regards to bear behavior. So, he has been able to work with the dogs to protect these bears in any way possible.
The Karelian Bear Dogs have been doing their job for a long time, but working to help with the wildland fire is a new concept. The dogs were already working hard on reducing contact between bears and humans, so this job seemed like a perfect fit for them. During the fire, there has been an increase in bear activity near humans, so the dogs were brought to the scene.
These pups got to ride in helicopters for the first time during their new role. Helicopters are used to quickly transport them to the areas where they’re needed most. The hardworking pups love the work they do, and they are a critical part of the wildland fire. Many people might not recognize the incredible work they do, but they are essential for saving both humans and animals.
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Featured Image: @WindRiverBearInstitute/Facebook
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