KANASKAT, Wash. These are not your average Fidos.
State Fish and Wildlife officers used a team of specially trained dogs Friday to chase away a bear released in a southeast King County park.
It was the first time that Karelian bear dogs had been used in Washington state.
The dogs, a breed from Finland, are trained to bark ferociously and chase and run after bears as a way of teaching them they're not welcome in campgrounds, backyards and other places where people want to be without ursine companions.
The 400-pound male black bear was trapped in the backyard of a nearby home in Palmer, Wash., on Thursday. It wandered into the Deveraux family yard and got into the dog food, and then returned every day for more than a week.
''He would sleep by the back door,'' Jeanne Deveraux said with her 2-year-old daughter, Emma, in tow. ''He's very comfortable. That's what scares me.''
Once trapped, the bear was driven from the Deveraux home to Kanaskat-Palmer State Park on the Green River.
The cylindrical bear trap was parked in a day-use area of the park, while the trap was surrounded by the dogs and wildlife agents armed with shotguns loaded with beanbag rounds and rubber bullets as well as some live ammunition, just in case.
The dogs look much like border collies but are taller and have curly tails. When the trap opened, Rocky Spencer, the only wildlife biologist in Washington who owns a Karelian bear dog, said, ''Good boy, good bark, bark at the bear!'' to his dog, named Mishka.
As soon as the trap door opened, the officers led by Carrie Hunt, a bear biologist who breeds Karelians and trains wildlife managers how to use them began yelling, ''Get out of here, bear! Get out of here, bear!''
About 30 seconds later, the bear peered out, apparently thought better of hanging around a bunch of people with shotguns aimed at him, and charged away but not in the direction Hunt and the officers expected.
Instead of running toward a treeline, he dove beneath a Fish and Wildlife truck after jumping out of the trap and getting hit in the rear end with rubber bullets.
Then he headed down a wooded embankment toward the Green River, running from the jarring sound of three barking Karelians. To finish the job, agents fired a round of noise-making cracker shot for good measure.
The idea, Hunt explained, is to make the experience so unpleasant for the bear that it won't return to places frequented by humans.
''He's getting a chance that most bears don't a chance to live,'' said Hunt, founded the Wind River Bear Institute in Heber City, Utah, nine years ago.
The institute's goal is to develop an alternative to dealing with problem bears. In most cases, she said, bears are simply either moved from a location and most often return, or they're killed.
She was hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to train agents from several states and agencies in the use of the bear dogs.
As for the dogs, a job well done earned them jerky treats.
On the Net:
Wind River Bear Institute: http://www.beardogs.org/
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