Fifteen years ago, the Alberta Government decided to pilot a Wildlife Management Project involving Karelian Beardogs. Two pups would be paired with two Fish and Wildlife Officers in the Crowsnest Pass area of southern Alberta and would be trained to work as Partners in Wildlife Management, especially in situations involving bears.
This idea grew out of Carrie Hunt, U.S.A. founder of the Windriver Bear Institute and breeder, trainer of Karelian Beardogs for wildlife management. Carrie believed that a program using aversive conditioning with beardogs would teach bears that if they stayed in covered areas of the forest away from humans, they would be safe.
In order for this project to be successful, it would be necessary to hire a trainer with an appreciation for the goal in mind and the creativity to design a program of training that would take the independence and prey drive of the Karelian Beardog and use it to produce a dog that could track or air scent a bear, pinpoint its location to the Fish and Wildlife Officer, sound the alert, and , under the direction of its handler, move the bear out of populated areas back into cover. The Alberta Government contracted me to be that trainer.
Over the eight years, two dogs grew to four and we added another Officer to the program. The training developed these dogs into a fabulous team, showcasing each dog's special talents and unique personalities. The Officers who began the program learned to 'trust' their dogs and have been saved from moose and bear encounters time and again. The dogs can discriminate between many scents and can locate anything dead.... anything. They have tracked bears, wolves, & cougars and have herded Bighorn sheep off the Highways and have diverted moose away from school playgrounds. As well, the dogs are great 'fish cops' as they can smell a fish no matter where it might be hidden.
I am proud to have been a part of the Karelian Beardog Program in Alberta.
November 2011 I am so sad to report the loss of one of our original team members, KBD Mica at the age of ten. Mica was a force to reckon with when it came to wildlife management. Mica will always have a special place in my heart.
Mica .....Partner, Protector