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Fire Dogs Keep Bears Away

The Alaska Fire Service has called on specialized canines to help protect firefighters battling the Isom Creek Fire along the Dalton Highway. Fire information officer Sam Harrel says a handler and two dogs from the Alaska and Montana based Wind River Bear Institute, have been hired to deter bears from fire camps.

Bear Dogs Problem: Q:”…the Karelian bear dogs.” :18

Harrel says use of the dogs in wildfire camps is a first for the federal Bureau of Land Management, an effort aimed at safety and conservation.

Bear Dogs T2T: Q:”…is capable of.” :11 

Wind River Bear Institute director Nils Pedersen of Fairbanks says he’s been with the organization for ten years and learned the value of the Karelian Bear Dog. He says the breed was developed in eastern Finland and western Russia to track big game. 

Bear Dogs Train: Q:”…they shouldn’t be.” :14  

Pedersen says he and his dogs have previously helped keep bears out of other types of remote field camps like along pipelines, and the work at the Isom Creek wildfire is similar.

Bear Dogs Sweep: Q:”…use lethal force.” :27

Pedersen emphasizes that the dogs are generally kept on a leash, and push bears back into the woods by barking at them.  He says so far, he and the dogs have helped deter one bear, a black bear that came into the Isom Creek fire camp.

Dan has been in public radio news in Alaska since 1993. He’s worked as a reporter, newscaster and talk show host at stations in McGrath, Valdez and Fairbanks. Dan’s experience includes coverage of a wide range of topics, from wolf control to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and dog mushing.