Man And Bear's Best Friend: Bear Shepherd Dogs Protect Everyone From Harm

Karelian bear dogs are being trained to act as “bear shepherds” to avoid any dangerous encounters between humans and bears at the Wind River Bear Institute in Montana. With the help of these brave canines, bears who get too close to a human don’t have to be relocated or euthanized.

In the last 20 years, there have not been many recorded fatal bear attacks in North America—only about 25 cases. Bears usually don’t seek out humans or want to harm every human they see in their path. This does not mean, however, that bears do not pose a serious threat when encountered during a hike. Each bear is different, and suggested reactions to encounters vary between species. The general consensus is to never away when a bear commences a bluff charge, their defensive mechanism, because this will trigger predatory instincts, and the bear might become more aggressive.

For this reason, the Karelian Bear Dogs are the perfect species to fend-off bears who have wandered into human territory. Due to their strength and fearlessness, these dogs won’t run away when a bear does a bluff charge. Most dogs would get scared and start to run away, and this will trigger more violent instincts in the bear. The Karelians, however, have been shown the ability to instill a sense of fear amongst problematic bears, making them less likely to return to human-populated areas.

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Training these dogs began in the late 90s, and the program has inspired parks across the world to follow suit. Before the introduction of the dogs, a problematic encounter with a bear could result in their euthanasia or relocation. The most ideal situation would be a catch and release, but the bears can eventually find their way back to the area that they were banished from. With the help of the shepherd dogs, a more clearly-defined territory can be drawn between bears and humans.

This method of managing wildlife in parks has probably saved countless humans and bears’ lives. Wildlife biologist Rich Beausoleil told National Geographic that he "is confident saying that thousands of bears have been spared the bullet using this nonlethal technique.” Even with the protection of the dogs, you should always prepare in case of a bear encounter during a hike.

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