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Carrie Hunt's Bear Dogs

As the habitat for the grizzly bear dwindles, contact with humans is inevitable - which most often means a death sentence for the bear. But now there's a promising alternative that might help save bears by using a special breed of dog. Bear biologist Carrie Hunt, along with her canine team explains how it works on This Morning.

From Alaska to Montana to Yosemite National Park, bear biologist Carrie Hunt's Partners in Life program utilizes special Karelian bear dogs in combination with other conditioning tools such as red pepper spray and rubber bullets to modify bear behavior.

By using these techniques, bears are taught to avoid humans and human-associated food sources, just as they avoid areas in use by more dominant bears. The dogs and other aversive conditioning methods can be used as deterrents, where they prevent bears from ever learning to become a problem, and as repellents for bears that already have problems.

Current methods of controlling bears, such as relocation, are generally ineffective as long-term solutions to the problem. In fact, most problem bears are eventually destroyed. But with this promising new method, bears and people can coexist.

Biologist Carrie Hunt

Carrie Hunt has been a bear biologist with the government and private organizations for 20 years in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Canada. In 1982, after becoming interested in using dogs to deter and repel bears, she found a breed that seemed perfect for the task - the bear dog.

During 1996 and 1997, Carrie had great success with her program in Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Park and northwest Montanta. In 1997 alone, the team worked with 60 different bears.

As a bear conflict specialist, her objectives are to prevent or reduce incidence of the three principal situations that cause the majority of bear conflicts: close encounters, bear habituation to humans and bear use of human associated food resources.

She developed the use of red pepper spray, widely in use today, to turn away approaching bears. She also conducted the first investigation of aversive conditioning on free-ranging problem grizzly bears, which involved shooting rubber bullets at bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Destined to be moved or destroyed, six of the seven bears were successfully turned around.

She is now working full time to develop and implement her Partners in Life program. As a one-women operation, Hunt has devoted her life to this program, using up her entire savings and that of her father. She is currently seeking funding from private and government sources to keep the program in operation.

(Tax deductible contributions can be made for the Partners in Life program through the Brown Bear Resources Inc., 1240 Harrison, Missoula, MT 59802).

Karelian Bear Dogs

Relatively unknown, Karelian bear dogs originated mainly in western Russia and Finlan, where they were used for centuries on farms and to hunt bears. Karelians weigh about 40-60 pounds when grown, are black and white with raccoon-type black mask coloring around the eyes, and have the body and shape of a husky.

Just as the border collie has an instinct to herd sheep, Karelians have an instinct for handling bears safely. Unlike North American bear hounds that will run a bear for miles, leaving their handlers far behind, these dogs are bred to work closely between the hunter and the game. They are capable of safely working a bear on the ground, and just as important, they do not go off and leave the hunter once they get on the trail of a bear.

The dogs are trained to patrol and warn bears to stay away; turn approaching bears; and guard ranches, camps, homes, campgrounds and people as they work and play.

They track and find bear signs, warn or determine if a bear is in the area, identify bear movements, locate orphaned cubs and vehicle or train-hit bears, as well as teach bears to stay out of places by barking and chasing.

For more information on the bear dog training program, visit The Wind River Bear Institute website. Phone and Fax: (435) 654-6644

(Tax deductible contributions can be made for the Partners in Life program through the Brown Bear Resources Inc., 1240 Harrison, Missoula, MT 59802).

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