Agency Use of Karelian Bear Dogs for Carnivore Conservation and Management
with Rich Beausoleil, January 2018
About Rich Beausoleil has been researching carnivores for 21 years. In 2003, he co-founded the Karelian Bear Dog Program (KBD) in Washington. Rich’s dogs have been involved in over 500 bear and 150 cougar captures. Information obtained from these animals and their movements have been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals. In addition to research, WA KBDs are also used for finding injured and orphaned wildlife, non-lethally resolving human conflict, locating illegally killed animals, and a nationwide education campaign focused on living with carnivores through prevention. The WA KBD Program has had 7 dog handlers in both the wildlife & enforcement programs and Rich considers the KBD Program one of the highlights of his career.
Rich Answers Participant's Questions
Video Resources not shown during the webinar due to time constraints. View webinar for participant questions he answered live.
1. What was it about the Karelian Bear Dog Program that helped decide that was the dog you wanted to utilize? Were there other dogs that you had in mind?
No. This was the only dog. There are many dogs available that can tree cougar and bear but none that have this kind of intelligence to: (1) always associate people as part of the pack; (2) know that they cannot win a fight with this animals if they turned to challenge them, so they stop and then move to a “corralling” technique; and (3) know that kittens / cubs are helpless and if captured on the ground we don’t want them to hurt the animal
2. Can you comment on the fish and game department in Idaho and how they handled the cougar situation at an Idaho airport? The cougar was killed.
No, I cannot. I am not aware of this situation.
3. How can we support your organization?
Donations can be made to WDFW-KBD Fund, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd, Mill Creek WA 98012
4. Has Washington or any of the other states considered publishing their success in scientific journals?
Yes, I discussed this a little on the webinar. We hope to be able to compile this information and submit it for publication in the near future.
5. Is there a possible consequent of the bear dogs discouraging movement/dispersal of large carnivores therefore disrupting gene flow?
No, not at all. Any hazing or aversive conditioning we do is done around people and its very short distance. Once the animal is in the woods, we call the dogs back. The only time we want them to have a negative experience is around people.
6. How do you exercise your dogs daily? Do you run with them on leash?
Yes, I have to. On days we don’t work, it’s about 10 miles a day. Sometimes on leash, but many times not on leash. That’s all part of the lifetime of training this type of work requires.
7. How much of an issue is poaching in Washington state?
No formal estimates exist but I get statewide agency enforcement reports every week and it’s a widespread and disappointing reality.
8. Do these dogs howl, and are they a mixed breed?
Yes, they do howl. Not all of them but both of mine do (commonly at sirens). And no, this is an AKC registered purebred breed.
9. Is there a place to acquire the Rugged Justice episodes? Great show that I cannot find anywhere.
Yes, I believe DVDs are available from Animal Planet.
10. Can you discuss off leash vs. on leash work? What are your training tactics for off leash recall?
We use on-leash for hazing and pushing animals away from people and off leash for making captures and pushing animals away from people a bit further. Dogs are wearing GPS collars so we can see where they are at all times. But they are trained to return using a special whistle. When we do captures, we don’t simply put them on a track and hope for the best. We do a lot of tracking and only release the dogs when we are confident the animal is nearby. That way the dogs are fresh, have the upper hand, and have the best chance to be successful.
11. Would you be interested in consulting with us a on a sloth bear conflict program for Sri Lanka?
Yes, absolutely. Richard.firstname.lastname@example.org
12. How broadly do you imagine that Karelian Bear dogs could be used?
I think the possibilities are endless, but it requires an incredible amount of work. And it never stops. For instance, in my situation there are no Sunday morning walks in the park. Everything is a hunt. And because we work with cougars, my dogs will chase house cats if given the opportunity.
13. Are there any wildlife situations in which Karelian Bear dogs do not provide a good solution?
I am sure there is. Wolf work is likely one of them. But also as I mentioned in the webinar, they should not be used for wildlife enforcement work on people outside of search and rescue. Also we should never forget that while Karelian Bear Dogs are incredibly useful, the cause of the human conflict (attractants) should be addressed to avoid a repeat performance.
14. What do you think is the best model for their usage? Should they be owned privately?
If you mean privately vs agency owned then absolutely 100% yes. Karelian Bear Dogs should be partnered with one person for life. There are many ways this can be accomplished, but these dogs should not be owned by the State. Handler selection of course is a very big part of this because it’s a 15 year commitment.