CARCROSS, Yukon — Two behavioural biologists in a northern Canadian community are using dogs as an effective way to chase grizzly bears out of populated areas, away from people and dangerous situations. The biologists work with the Wind River Bear Institute, an organization that reduces the number of bear deaths caused by interactions with humans.
Lori Homstol and Clare Edwards are busing specially trained Karelian Bear Dogs to chase grizzly families out of the small community. Just recently, there were a few sows and their cubs in the area who were eating soapberries and digging up roots.
Homstol and Edwards who are with the Canadian branch of the Wind River Bear Institute, and spent eight days tracking the bears until the dogs stopped picking up their scent.
Homstol said they would see a bear nearly every day. When they saw it they would yell at it, or shoot it with paintballs, until it left the area. She says the dogs do most of the work.
“I can tell when he smells a bear that’s 100 metres away because he’ll pull and he has certain body language that lets me know that there’s a bear there,” Homstol said.
It helps that Carcross is a small community. The biologists just drive around with the dogs’ head out of the window and try to find the hot spots, the places where the bears are spending more time. The dogs’ let them know when a bear is close by barking. Later they return on foot and track the scat and root digs, making sure there isn’t any garbage or unnatural food they are into.
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It’s easier to get a bear to leave a community when it’s not interested in garbage. The biologists say their method keeps bears alive and communities safe.
The program uses Karelian Bear Dogs for the tracking because the dogs have long been used as hunting dogs in northern Europe. These dogs are intelligent, fearless and full of boundless energy.
The ten day study was funded by the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the Yukon Conservation Officer Service.