Meet the Team

4/6/2012 7:15:53 PM

Meet the Team

Contributor:

Finding a white, denned, mother polar bear in a white, snow-ridden world can be a difficult task. Today the wind is blowing and the white horizon merges with the white sky. In this white landscape, polar bears are well-camouflaged, so finding a bear denned underneath the snow is a real problem! The bear den detection project has two parts: One uses the FLIR infrared camera system that works by detecting a heat signal from the denned bear. The FLIR system was used in our February field campaign. The second bear den detection method is using Karelian Bear Dogs.

 Karelian bear dogs with handlers

Karelian Bear Dogs are a specific breed of dogs originating from Russia and the Finnish border. The Karelian breed goes back for centuries and have been specifically breed for bear hunting. The breed almost died out during World War II because starving people frequently ate dogs to survive, and because dogs that alerted locals to incoming enemies were often killed by those enemies.

Grace, left, and Kavik, right

Karelian Bear Dogs are used today to reduce human/bear conflicts and to detect denned polar and grizzly bears. I am meeting the team today and am happy to say that two members are Karelian Bear Dogs! Kavik, above right, is an 11-year-old male Karelian Bear Dog. He has worked with Dick Shideler, a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, for eight years detecting dens. Grace, above left, is a seven-year-old female dog from Alberta, Canada. This is her first year working with handler Trent Roussin detecting polar bear dens. Kavik and Grace are full of energy and ready to find bear dens!!!

To find out more about Karelian Bear Dogs visit the Wind River Bear Institute website.

Photos copyright April Cheuvront. Return to Scientists & Explorers Blog.

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