Using Dogs to Reduce Wildlife Conflict with Nils Pedersen of Wind River Bear Institute

In this episode of K9 Conservationists, Kayla speaks with Nils Pederson from Wind River Bear Institute about wildlife canines used for bear deterrence.

Science Highlight: ⁠Effectiveness of scat-detection dogs in determining species presence in a tropical savanna landscape⁠

Links Mentioned in the Episode:  

Where to find Nils: ⁠Website⁠ | ⁠Facebook⁠ | ⁠Instagram⁠

You can support the K9 Conservationists Podcast by joining our Patreon at ⁠patreon.com/k9conservationists.⁠

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Transcript (AI-Generated)

Kayla Fratt  00:09

Hello, and welcome to the K9Conservationists podcast, where we’re positively obsessed with conservation detection dogs. Join us every other Tuesday to talk about detection, training, canine welfare, conservation, biology and everything in between. I’m Kayla Fratt, one of three co-founders of K9Conservationists, we train dogs to detect data for researchers, NGOs and agencies. Thank you to all of our listeners. We haven’t had any recent podcast reviews to share.

Kayla Fratt  00:34

So I wanted to give a shout out to our patron, Megan Barnes for the amazing progress she’s been making lately with her boy Merlin. I lessons can be really tough and I’ve been really astonished by Meg’s ability to dig in and get creative and work with Merlin as as he continues to mature. It’s been really amazing to watch it pay off as part of our online mentorship group.

Kayla Fratt  00:53

Today I have the joy of talking to Nils Pedersen from the Wind River Bear Institute about wildlife canines used for bear deterrence among other things. Nils and his team work to keep wildlife safe by scaring them away from people as well as using the dogs to investigate carcasses or scat to gather more information about potential problem bears. I am super excited for this interview, it went a little bit long. But Nils is so professional and does an amazing job of just highlighting how complex this field is and how thoughtful one has to be to work with this sort of wildlife canine that, again, is not just doing some detection stuff, though they do touch on some really cool work finding polar bear dens and scat those sorts of things. So anyway, I’m so excited to share this with you.

Kayla Fratt  01:38

But first, we do have to dive into our science highlight. So this week, I read the paper titled “Effectiveness of scat detection dogs in determining species presence in a tropical savanna landscape,” which was written by Carly Vynee and several others, including Sam Wasser, who is one of the fathers of the conservation detection  dog field. This article was published in Conservation Biology in 2010, so it’s a little older, but it follows the use of scat detection dogs in Brazil to detect the presence of maned wolf, puma, giant anteater and giant armadillo. They found that the probability of detection vary based on target species but was consistent across team year and season, which honestly surprised me a little bit, I would have expected variability across dog teams and across seasons, they did note that actually some of the variability across species was due to one dog having a lower probability of detection with I didn’t write this down, but I believe it was the Anteater. This study also didn’t just look at protected areas, but also use the dogs to survey adjacent agricultural areas, where they found that 71% of scats were not on roads, which really just highlights how helpful dogs are because humans, searchers tend to only be really effective at finding scouts that are on roads and not visually obscured by vegetation. Some of the probability of occurrence and probability of detection calculations in this paper were a little bit too mathy. For me at this point, it was a pretty math heavy paper. So I might revisit this paper as I get further into my statistical analysis classes as part of my PhD and bring it back up.

Kayla Fratt  01:59

But without further ado, let’s get into the interview with Nils. Nils, welcome to the podcast. I am so excited to have you here.

Nils Pedersen  03:13

Thanks. Good to be here.

Kayla Fratt  03:15

Yeah, so why don’t we kind of start out with you know, we’ll start out really, really broad level like why do we need bear dogs? What are bear dogs for? Yeah, what is the point here?

Nils Pedersen  03:27

Yeah, well, for our purposes with Wind River Bear Institute, we’re using these dogs for human-wildlife conflict. And, and so you know, that consists of detection using these dogs for conflict purposes, as well as public education and outreach. And our designation is as wildlife canine so these are dogs that are trained not only for, for detection, but also for the conflict aspect of work, which can mean anything from pushing bears out of places they shouldn’t be, to finding dead bears, sometimes investigating poaching cases or other wildlife related crime trafficking, to finding bear dens for oil companies polar bear den so they can avoid them when they’re doing off road or establishing ice roads or doing seismic activity in the North Slope of Alaska. And then, you know, primarily our dogs are finding bears and dead things. So sometimes the work involves finding, say, like an elk calf that a grizzly bear has cash near a public use trail that we need to find to either close down that trail or to find that carcass and get it out of there, take it somewhere where that bear can, can feed on it without causing a public safety hazard.

Nils Pedersen  04:47

So lots of different ways to use the dogs but we’re using Karelian bear dogs in particular because of their hunting capabilities. very primitive dog. That is traditionally has been used to hunting grizzly bear bears that are going to stand their ground. You know, they’re not going to be going up trees, in other words, and need a really good dog that’s capable of assisting in that circumstance and not creating a liability, like a lot of dogs will when you have a bear encounter. Absolutely. Getting back to your question, in particular, he asked why we need bear dogs. And the case is that humans and bears tend to come into conflict with one another, especially when we’re using the same areas. And, you know, I think it is worth noting how how capable bears are of maneuvering around people, in many cases without causing problems, especially when people are doing really silly things, such as approaching them or something along those lines. Yeah, so you know, I think that’s worth keeping in mind.

Nils Pedersen  06:03

But fundamentally, it’s really better, better for the bears in particular, if, if they’re not coming into, into conflict with people, those bears usually end up either being killed that people in self defense, perceived self defense, perhaps, or by agencies that consider that bear to be a public safety hazard. And so if we can work with these bears on the ground, not having to trap them, or relocate them, or do anything like that, but actually work with them, especially sales that have cubs, that are teaching their cubs everything they need to know about the world and how to survive, we can work with those bears in their habitat there teach them how to move around people. In many cases, bears have lost their awareness entirely towards people. In some cases, they’re even food conditioned, they’ve learned how to have a learned association between people and access to food. So they’re actually approaching people coming into human use areas to to get garbage or, in some cases, even directly fed by people. Those are bears that are not likely to be around for very long, whether they’re going to be shot by someone who thinks the bear is threatening them, or removed by an agency that considers that bear to no longer be safe to have on the landscape. So So what we’d like to do is teach those bears how to move around people, push them out of human use areas, and keep them out and teach them how to move around and remain on the landscape of that house without having to be killed or relocated.

Kayla Fratt  07:49

Yeah, definitely no. And that’s, I love this as you brought up, you know, obviously, the first step in a lot of these cases is ideally, to avoid conditioning these bears to feel comfortable around people or even be food condition. I know I’ve lived in enough places with bears where, you know, everyone kind of knows a fed bear is a dead bear, and you know, how to set out your trash appropriately and all of those sorts of things. But not everyone does that consistently. And you know, and sometimes, you know, I know there’s that famous quote, I think it’s a Yosemite Ranger that says the, the overlap of, or the the line of intelligence between the dumbest tourist and the smartest bear as far as creating bear proof trash containers is very, very thin. I can’t remember exactly how he says it. But you know, bears are smart, and they’re food motivated. And so you guys are kind of coming in as a way to work on deterrence actually teaching these bears to avoid move away from and kind of stay away from humans. And I think maybe I don’t know how much you can speak to this idea of relocation, because I think a lot of times people are like, Well, why would we ever need to kill the bear? Why can’t we just move it? And I know, I know, a little bit about some of the downsides of relocation, but you probably know more. But

09:05

Yeah, I can certainly speak to that, you know, to touch on a couple things you brought up here. You know, bears are incredibly intelligent animals. Just amazing noses, you know, even more powerful than that of a dog. And there’s likely a lot of things that bears communicate and understand about the world that we just have no concept of, because we don’t know what that is like to have such as powerful nose. So I think that’s really an interesting and neat thing about bears. You know, they’re also very smart, they can learn, they can learn to do all kinds of things. We know this, you know, from bears that have been trained to do things for people’s entertainment, which thankfully, we’re not we’re not doing so much anymore, but they can learn they’re very, very smart and they can learn very quickly how to become a huge problem for people.

Nils Pedersen  10:02

They can also learn, however, how to move around people and remain on the landscape. And, but this requires life lessons for them, they need to learn about the world, and a lot of this they learned from their moms. But, you know, our motto at the Wind River Bear Institute is “teach your wildlife well,” which means I think, you know, the most common thing I see is people inadvertently teaching bears to do things that we don’t like, and ultimately end up resulting in that bear having to be killed. And so I really encourage people to think about their role in this equation, how, you know, what, am I teaching these animals? What am I teaching this bear to do? Because there’s no doubt about it, that if you’re, if you’re leaving your, your garbage out on the curb, they’re available to bears, you know, come by, get into that garbage, you know, imagine this is a bear that’s spending a lot of its time eating berries, or digging up roots or something and foraging this way, comes along and knocks over your garbage can and gets a, you know, some leftover crust, pizza crust, or something that’s a huge, that’s a, that’s a big win for that there, you better believe it’s gonna, yeah, that there’s gonna be back to try this again, because that worked out really well for it.

Nils Pedersen  11:22

And so what we’d like to do is prevent it from getting into that food garbage to begin with, and then actually give it a good reason to avoid human use areas, by making it uncomfortable for them to be in these verses, and for them to be spending time around people. You know, bears aren’t territorial, in the same way that wolves are, you know, and what I mean by that is that, you know, Little Bear is going to wait until Big Bear has done fishing. And then when Big Bear is done fishing Little Bear will come and use that fishing hole, they will use each other spaces like that, however, Little Bear is going to wait until Big Bear is gone. And what we’d like is for that bear, to think of people as the Big Bear, and just avoid our our areas altogether, you know, avoid our spaces altogether.

Nils Pedersen  12:10

But, you know, I think it’s important to keep in mind that in some places, bears will have to traverse human use areas to get from point A to point B, you know, when the campground closes down in September, all the you know, all the food and whatnot is out of there. But for that bear to be able to traverse that campground during that time and people aren’t using it is really important. And so, you know, it’s not necessarily about excluding bears altogether from human development, but from teaching them how to move around people human occupied space, specifically. And, you know, I think that, that quote you brought up from the park rangers is a good one. But also point out that, you know, our way of thinking about things is that people can learn, people usually want to do the right thing, especially when they see that agencies or management is trying to use non lethal techniques, we’re trying to keep these bears around, we don’t want to kill every bear that’s coming into conflict with people.

Nils Pedersen  13:15

So we’d really like, you know, as best we can to reach people, before they come in to the park or wherever it may be. Provide them practical and useful information that’s going to help them prevent having a negative bear encounter once they come into this park, or whatever it may be. So, you know, a lot of our approach, that is the preventative aspect of our approach, in many ways, is intercepting folks giving them useful information that they can then take with them into the back country or wherever they’re going. And that way, when they do have a bear encounter, which a lot of people want to see bears, you know, a lot of people want to observe them and are kind of disappointed if they don’t get to see a bear. But we let what we’d like is for that when they do see that bear to know what to do, right to know how to not bother that bear to know how to be in this area without creating a negative outcome for that bear. Prevent that bear from getting into their food, prevent it from becoming, you know, what many? What we will term a nuisance animal, although I think, you know, more often than not, it’s more hopefully of nuisance people who end up you know, doing things that lead to poor outcomes for these bears. But, you know, I think that’s really important and a huge part of our program is public education, providing better safety messaging using our dogs using these Karelian bear dogs as wildlife ambassadors. to form bridges between people and wildlife. Yeah, and so of course, exactly.

Kayla Fratt  15:13

Yeah, we’re just, we’re just riffing on bears. It’s all right. Yeah. But I, you know, I love your point that, you know, people are teachable. And that is one of our first lines of defense. And we don’t need to exclude barriers completely. And that’s not necessarily even a realistic or even possible goal in some places. But then also, you know, I know I’ve done a little bit of work in, you know, places like Yellowstone, where you just you can have the best public education campaign in the world. And they’re still just, it’s just kind of too many people coming through to have 100% success. And it only takes a couple of people who, you know, think that it’s cute, or, you know, want to get something on Instagram, or, you know, don’t notice that their eight year old left the chip bag out overnight, you know, it doesn’t even have to be, it could be something that any one of us really could do. So I’d love to now kind of pivot a little bit to how to how did you get into this line of work? You know, how does one become someone who uses dogs to teach bears to not to maybe be less problematic?

16:21

Yeah, well, I got into this line of work very serendipitously I would say, I’ve had had working dogs, my whole life sled dogs growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska. But the first dog that I had in my adult life was a supposedly anyway, a Karelian bear dog, Husky cross of some kind that I picked up just like a rescue dog. And at the time, I was working for Alaska Department of Fish and Game doing fish work on the Yukon River and was able to take that dog out with me when I was spending time in fish camp, and really valued having that dog and really appreciated not only just how smart that dog was, and how capable but yeah, so that that dog that I had, when I was working for Alaska Fish and Game, really appreciated having that dog with me.

Nils Pedersen  17:17

When I was out, working in fish camps and actually read around when I got that dog too, I had a really sad encounter, in which a hiking little bit north of Fairbanks here had a grizzly bear encounter in which a friend’s dog barked and alerted us to the fact that there was a bear here. But then did what you really don’t want a dog to do and a bear encounter. And as the dog ran up to the bear, barked at it, realized it was a bear, came running back to us. So while we were standing our ground, you know, and waving our hands and hollering at that bear, the dog brought the bear back to us. And the only deterrent that we had at that time was a .44 pistol. And, you know, we should have been carrying bear spray. It’s a big lesson, but you know, fired a warning shot and the bear stopped and stood up and then came down full charge at us. And we ended up shooting that bear and really sad.

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Nils Pedersen  18:34

You know, I think that was a very scary situation that turned into a really sad situation really quickly. And I would just put put out there for anyone who, you know, does not want to carry bear spray, but will only carry a firearm. It’s worth considering that if that’s your only recourse. You know, imagine it’s a sow that has cubs and she’s defending her her cubs. And if you have to shoot her, and orphan those cubs, that’s, that’s pretty crummy, and you could carry bear spray and deescalate that situation without having to use lethal. That’s, I think, I think that’s a good way of doing things. So anyway, that encounter with that bear, I think was informative for me going forward. And when that dog that I had passed away unexpectedly when he was two, I found myself in in Montana visiting my sister who was looking for another Karelian bear dog and saw that the Wind River Bear Institute was just south of Missoula there and they had just had a litter of puppies. So I started volunteering there and I think on the on the second day I was there, the person who was doing their night kennel ended up quitting and they were needing someone to do night kennel the work there at night and I didn’t have any place to live at that time. I was just, you know, kind of a ski bum out of my truck. And that would be, you know, not a bad way to spend the winter and

Kayla Fratt  20:20

Yeah, ski during the day. Yeah, that’s –

20:24

Yeah, it was great. And so we’re just south Missoula down the Bitterroot. And in all working at night, basically snuggling dogs down at their boarding kennel and just started helping carry hunts. The founder of the Wind River Bear Institute started helping her with with doing basically dog rehabilitation rehabilitating human aggressive dogs and dog aggressive dogs that she was training at the time. And, and so I started helping her that and kind of through the dog training, side of things started working with the Karelian bear dogs. And that was around the time that Soledad, my 14 year old female. Now she was about a year at that time, she was just coming back from our first field season working with grizzly bears in Kananaskis Country, Alberta and ended up that Soledad needed a needed a trainer and a handler. And so I started working with Soledad and pretty quick, she and I got to be pretty good pals and doing everything with Soledad. And that summer, there was an opportunity to take her up to Alberta there again and do work with Wind River Bear Institute.

Nils Pedersen  21:41

So I quit my job with Fish and Game and started working with Wind River. And I think that that summer, I was working in Alberta for about six months. So I was there for quite a long time doing grizzly bear aversion for for a pipeline company. And also feathering into to the longest running aversive conditioning program ever conducted on grizzly bears there in Alberta, really amazing program. And, you know, got a lot of experience doing that did a lot of volunteering during that time. And I think when I came back from Alberta that year, and recognized that there was an opportunity to do polar bear den detection using these dogs in the North Slope oil fields, with, you know, with folks in Alaska that I that I always would have wanted to work with.

Nils Pedersen  22:31

But I was you know, busy measuring fish and all that with Fish and Game, which in retrospect was actually really pleasant work. But at the time, I was kind of more interested in terrestrial animals, I had a background in wildlife biology and you know that that was certainly more appealing to me, but there’s an opportunity to to work with these dogs finding bear dens. So, you know the purpose of which is find the dents, mark that location. And then the oil companies would avoid that den area, mile buffer zone around a known polar bear den. And polar bears are talking about a species that is already losing habitat in Alaska, only maternal female polar bears are going to Den to produce cubs. Psychologically speaking, it’s really important that these animals are able to that are these animals are not disturbed while they’re in the den. And certainly, seismic work or off road activities has a high likelihood of disturbing them. So you know, to be able to find them reliably so that oil companies can avoid them. Just made a lot of sense. To me, that was a very, like a very deliverable way of using these dogs in a very practical way. And it really appealed to me and I think once I realized that that was a possibility of doing work like that through Wind River, I was all in and I spent the next three years or so there apprenticing with Kerry Hunt before I decided to start a master’s program here in Fairbanks, Alaska. And I’ve been here for the past nine years or so and took over as director of the organization in 2019. And mostly been focusing on on work in Alaska, but also still active in Montana and other parts of North America as well as Japan.

Kayla Fratt  24:32

Very cool. Yeah. It’s always amazing to me talking to some of the folks that come out of this show how many people get into fields like this, like kind of through chance, kind of through accidents, you know, weird connections, being in the right place at the right time and just kind of being willing to take on, you know, the night kennel job and yeah, you know, that’s not necessarily something that we’re going for, but yeah, you clearly had something that worked out there. So Let’s kind of briefly tell us a little bit about Carly and bear dogs. I don’t know this breed very well. I have seen them. I you know, I’m aware of Wind River bear Institute, you know, we’re talking, but honestly, that’s about all I know, you know, they kind of look like a you know, we were talking right before we hit record to kind of look like an Akita Border Collie cross, that brings anything up for people. But yeah, why this breed? Are there any other breeds that could be used? And, you know, kind of, yeah, what what are they doing so well, that makes them so well use suited to bear work?

25:36

Yeah. Well, fundamentally, currently on their dogs have been bred for big game hunting for hunting moose, as well as European brown bears, they’re in Eastern Finland and western Russia. And this is a dog that you don’t good working lines of it and select dogs should have should not be afraid of bears. In fact, they should think it’s a lot of fun to harass them essentially. And so traditional use of this dog for hunting would be to have the dog on leash. And when you cross the track of the bear, or moose or whatever it is that you’re after, turn the dog off leash, they’re going to track silently. But then when they find the animal, they’ll bark, and they it, which is to hold it there, I’d say the moose tries to run while the dog is going to try and nip at it, get it to turn bark at it usually takes two Karelian bear dogs, one male, one female to really effectively be up moose or bear, but to bark at them. And then as a hunter, you would listen for that barking, Track down your dog and track down your your game.

Nils Pedersen  26:49

And so, you know, the dog has a traditional function, that we’re taking that and applying it for conservation purposes. But you know, there are a number of different dogs that do similar things, you know, Norwegian, l count Swedish elkhounds, like a kind of dogs. And so, you know, I think Karelian bear dogs, there’s a number of reasons why we use this breed and specific and one of them certainly is that the very healthy dogs, we get lots of 10 plus working years out of them, usually they are forbidden to be human aggressive, should not, you know, should should be a very good temperament with people and children. And that’s the kind of dog that we need to do public education, work, we need dogs that are very friendly with people. And we do a lot to socialize them as well, from a young age. But then also, you know, they’re very athletic dogs. They are things, very distinct looking, which is helpful to know no doubt about it. It’s become kind of our brand, the Karelian bear dog. Which has some benefits, besides you know, marketing or whatever. But I think when people en large nowadays, see us working with these dogs see the black and white dogs wearing purple, they know what we’re doing, which has a lot of benefit for us. Because totally, you know, not having to explain all the time that, you know, no, we’re not hunting the bear to kill it. Right? For example, that this is a non lethal approach, and we’re doing what we can to make sure this bear does not need to be destroyed. You know, I think, you know, beyond that.

Nils Pedersen  28:45

Another good reason why we use Karelians is from from the linws that we’ve been breeding and working with for the past 27 years now we have predictable results, breeding, you know, a pair of working lines, and then testing the pups, evaluating them for working aptitude and selecting the ones that are best fit for work, which is usually about a quarter of a letter. We’ll divide our dogs into what we call bear conflict dogs, which are needing to work these are dogs that really want to hunt. And we’re going to be placing them with the right people in the right places to do the work and ultimately achieve wildlife canine handler certification. Which usually takes between two to four years on all but then we have our bear, bear protection dogs usually which is about half of the litter.

Nils Pedersen  29:33

And these are dogs that I think most people actually want that get Karelian bear dogs in my experience anyway. The average owner wants a dog that’s going to stand its ground and bark. When you have a bear that you know is not going to be always ranging out hunting looking for bears to harass them, but a dog that’s more protective that good dog to have at your homestead or fish camp or whatever it may be. So and also I should say a dog, that’s not going to create a liability in the case that you have a bear encounter, a dog is not going to bring that bear back on top of you, right? Because that’s getting back to why we use Karelian is a huge reason is because they are not going to let that bear come come to you, right, they’re going to try and hold it where it is her acid, if it does come after you, they will bite that bear from behind and get it to turn right, this is a very good dog to have in a bad situation. So that’s part of why we’re using this dog too. And we don’t ask them to do that. I’ve never had that kind of a problem in my professional life, but but it is, you know, it is part of the reason why we use this dog.

Kayla Fratt  30:50

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.

Nils Pedersen  30:52

And then usually in our in our litters, we have another quarter of the litter so that we consider to be companion dogs, dogs that through the testing process have said they, you know, this is not what they want to do with their lives. They’re better for other purposes. And that’s what the testing process is all about, too. It’s not about who’s better than who it’s about, what does this dog want to do with its life? How can we place it so that it’s can be most successful, and whatever it is that it ends up doing. So that’s a little bit of background on the, on our breeding program, we only breed when we have applicants, and we’re very, not not looking for owners were fulfilling applicants requests as needed to maintain or in some cases, expand our programs.

Nils Pedersen  31:40

But, you know, that’s, I guess that that covers more or less why we use this kind of dog, I think you could use other kinds of dogs for this kind of work. But I think at this point for us, after 27 years of having no injuries to dogs, handlers or bears in the work that we do, we are not really interested in experimenting, if it’s like, yeah, we’ve had a lot of success. And, you know, we, his lines that Carrie Hunt has produced are really pretty unique. You know, we’re breeding, what I would describe as, by and large, a more user friendly, Karelian, bear, dog Karelian, bear dog that’s able to do the work, but also do that public education and outreach. And, you know, perhaps other applications too, that you know, that a purely hunting specific kind of dog may not be as inclined to do I think clearly, dogs by and large, as a breed are pretty stubborn, pretty hard headed. They have their own mind about things. And that’s part of why we use them part of why we love them, they can be what we call intelligently disobedient, which is to say that, if you’re asking them to do something that’s not safe, they can disobey you and say, No, I’m not going to come because I’m on this bear. I’m not going to bring this bear back to you, or no, I’m, I’m on a track. You’re suggesting I go this way, but we need to go this way we’re looking for that bear. So having a dog that, you know, is, you know, has that kind of motivation. And stubbornness can be really helpful. But we’re, you know, the application that we’re using these dogs for is perhaps a little more nuanced than that. And it can be beneficial to have a dog that is a bit bit more human oriented and interested in what you want. And not purely what what they want, I guess.

Kayla Fratt  33:41

Yeah, absolutely. That makes so much sense. And gosh, that’s that history is really fascinating. Do you do you also work in male/female pairs going all the way back to the beginning of what you were saying? And if so, what do you see as far as like, the sex pairing? Why? Why do you think that works that way?

Nils Pedersen  33:59

Well, yeah, I do work male and female pairs, usually, in my career. been doing this about 13 years now. And I’ve worked predominantly with females. Soledad is a female, her daughter Mardy. At this time, now I have a third generation there, Skye. And she’s a female as well and Paracas is her mail order husband and he I will also be using for work and Sky’s grandpa Rio I’ve used for work who came from Finland directly. He was a bear hunting dog there that brought over for breeding and for work. So I do kind of stagger them. I have five dogs, three females to males at this time. And I think it is good to have male/female combinations, fundamentally going back to their traditional uses. I believe that that was often more practical because if you had two males or two females, they may fight with each other over the bear or the moose. You know, clearly and bear dogs can be dog aggressive, something that we do a lot of work with our dogs to make sure they’re well socialized and not dog aggressive. But you can imagine that a dog that has the confidence and bravery to to confront and harass a grizzly bear may be a little aggressive towards other dogs in some cases, and the way I put it as usually they won’t turn down a fight.

Nils Pedersen  35:37

And I think with dog aggression, often, the more like the form, the more likely it is that they’re going to fight. So a male, an intact male with pointy ears and a curly tail, and another intact male with pointy ears and a curly tail. Be careful, you know, same with females. By and large, you know, the females might attack the males, but the males usually won’t fight with the females, they will they will back down. So, you know, that is beneficial having male female pairs for that purpose. And in the work we do, a lot of times we are pairing dogs together for the work, and it’s important that they are focused on, you know, the hunt, so to speak, and not fighting with each other. So, it’s a good reason to use male and female pairs for the work.

Nils Pedersen  36:30

And anytime, you know, anytime we are going in on a conflict situation, we are working at least two dogs, two handlers. And that’s really important. So we have not only the you know, the power to push that bear to communicate the aggression, to communicate to it that it needs to start moving, that we have these dogs, they’re on leash. And that, you know, that’s a really easy way to go. And this is a really hard way to go. And you know, bears can count; they know when they’re out numbered, they also know that that we have not only people here but dogs, these canines, which bears are often wary of to begin with wolves and coyotes that they interact with, they do need to be careful around. And I also think that just more fundamentally bears have an understanding that humans and dogs together are something to be very careful around, that this is a formidable combination. And that is how you hunt a bear. Right is with dogs. And whether the bear knows that directly, or it’s somehow just part of their, you know, their genetic memory or something, they they tend to know that humans and dogs are not something to be trifled with, to be careful around them, and to give them a wide berth if they can. And that’s really important to us that we are, you know, letting those bears know that they can leave and they have to leave. And this is the way out. And yeah, that’s really important. We never want to corner a bear. Create a situation where the bear thinks that it needs to fight. We want to make sure it knows that it’s outnumbered and make the wrong thing hard and the right thing really easy for it.

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Kayla Fratt  38:19

Yeah. I mean, it’s just like dog training. Yeah. Yep. Yeah. I think, you know, one of the other things that you said that surprised me was that over 27 years, you’ve had no dog or human or bear injuries. That’s really truly remarkable. And, yeah, so I was thinking maybe, you know, we can speak a little bit to that, because again, I would have expected that at least at some point. You’ve had a dog like sprained toe or something, just so maybe also use that to walk through what one of these encounters may look like. I’m sure there’s kind of no typical encounter, but maybe tell us a story or two. That is emblematic.

39:01

Yeah, absolutely. And we have had dogs have athletic dog injured.

Kayla Fratt  39:07

Man, my detection dogs are getting injured more often than yours. But yeah.

39:13

Actually, usually not while working though. Usually it’s something dumb, slipping on ice and tearing an ACL. Right? While you’re, yep.

Kayla Fratt  39:22

Always the dumbest stuff, isn’t it?

Nils Pedersen  39:24

It is and always is. It’s the same for me too, actually. But yes, we, we, in the work we’ve done. Yeah, I can’t think of an injury that a dog has sustained and certainly not from a bear. Right? We and part of the reason for that is because we are we have very strict safety protocols. And so anytime imagine we’re going Yeah, anytime we’re doing an action with a bear. First off, we’re we’re debriefing with one another talking about how we want to approach this. What is the lesson we want this bear to learn? How do we achieve that? Because anytime we’re you know, we do not want to have to bother bears any more than we have to. However, if a bear is doing something that’s going to get into trouble, or create a dangerous situation, absolutely, we will take action in that scenario. But you know, anytime we’re going in on a bear like that, it’s you know, two dogs, two handlers, usually a third person who’s going to be shooting. And, by and large, using, basically riot control rounds, right rubber bullets or beanbags to shoot that bear in the butt help get it moving. And we’re working our dogs almost exclusively on leash, and so we’re using the dogs to find the bear. And then the dogs are barking, letting that bear know that you really want to get it and that bear better get moving. And the bears very lucky that these dogs are on leash. And so you know, we’ve never had aggression from a bear, I’ve never had any instance where a bear has even really, you know, maybe stood its ground briefly. But if a bear is not moving within about 30 yards or so we’re gonna start hitting it with rubber bullets and getting that moving.

Nils Pedersen  41:23

So, you know, never had a bear approached us or anything like that. But part of that is because, you know, we are getting between the bear and the area that we want to defend. And making it really clear that that bear needs to leave. And you know, and really what we want that bear to do is to return to cover. Let’s imagine if it’s in a campground, we need that bear to move out of there and into the green space. And we will push that bear maybe a little further out into that green space, but we need to be able to come off really quickly. And effectively, we don’t want to pursue that bear into good places for bears to be right, we want to make it really uncomfortable for the bear to be spending time around people or in these human use areas. But then once it moves out into cover into good places for bears to be we need to be able to relieve pressure. And over time and repetition encouraged that bear to think that as long as it remains in cover and moves around human use areas and human occupied space. We are not going to bother it. You know, maybe the dogs might smell it and bark a little bit. But we’re not going to be pursuing it into the cover there. Yeah. And so I think that’s a really important thing to to make clear is that we’re working our dogs almost always on leash.

Kayla Fratt  42:51

Yeah, that was not actually something I realized. I was definitely imagining them off leash. So yeah, that’s cool. That makes a lot more sense.

43:00

Yeah, you know, and there is a place for off leash work as well. But but really the function that the that our wildlife canines are providing is detection, which oftentimes takes place out of the back of the truck. So you’re using these dogs as what we call strike dogs, they’re going to be sniffing out of out of the back of the truck, whether it be out the window, or better yet, with our vehicles that we use for work, we have a topper on the back with metal grate over the windows, and a little platform with a bed on it for the dogs to sit on. And so they’re spending a lot of time sitting on that bed, sniffing out the window, and then when they smelled their scent, they’re gonna bark. And so by doing things, that way, we can cover a lot more ground a lot more quickly, we can sweep out campgrounds and work sites with the dogs, because when they smell there, they’re gonna bark from there, we can determine if that bears in a good place, or if it needs to be moved. And if we need to then get out of the truck with the dogs on leash, and push that bear out. You can imagine that a lot of places were working. There are people around whether it’s around communities, around worksites, or campgrounds and national parks or other places. And any push we’re going to do with a bear, we need to make sure that we know where the people are, and there’s a clear path to push that bear out. And when you have dogs off leash, chasing bears around, that can be dangerous not only for the bear and the people around but also for the dogs to chase the bear and do a busy highway or something like that. It’s just not something we’re interested in doing, so. Working dogs –

Kayla Fratt  44:45

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, one of my first sorry, one of my first questions when I was imagining the dogs working off leash was Gosh, how do you get them back when they’re done? Because if you’re hunting bears, you know you’re done when When the bears killed, I would assume in at least most, if not all cases, almost certainly not all, I’m sure there’s something can always go wrong. But yeah, it’s trying to imagine that. So that makes much more sense. You’ve got physical control over the dogs. And yeah, great point about, you know, they’re not hurting dogs. So it’s not like you’ve got this fine tuned control over a border collie that can direct sheep into into a specific pen. That’s, that’s not what you’re doing here. So that makes a lot of sense, on a lot of levels. Continue!

45:28

Yeah. And, you know, furthermore, as I was saying, once that bear goes into the good bear places for the bear to be, we need to be able to relieve pressure, we don’t want to hurt out there anymore, once it’s out of the out of the red zone, so to speak, and into the green zone. And so you know, having good recall over the dogs is part of the training we do from the get go when we’re evaluating pups and training them and determining which dogs are fit for work. And then going on to train them for tracking and detection, recall, is the highest reward always cutting off, which is necessary, because ultimately, we’re going to need the dog to be able to do that off leash and do it in a way that’s safe. But for that dog, also to know that, you know, that is the highest value, reward, recall. And it’s really tough for the dog because, you know, especially the best canines that we have. are, you know, getting to bark and harass a bear is one of the is the most fun thing for the dog? They really,

Kayla Fratt  46:37

Totally, yeah, you’ve got to put a lot of a lot of investment into the recall bank account, because the genetic investment, and the bear barking bank account is already quite high, they’ve got a genetic Trust Fund there.

46:51

That’s right, and you want and talking about motivations. I mean, a lot of these really good dogs we have or have a very strong prey drive, highly motivated to bark and harass bears. And so to encourage them to think there’s something better than that. And recall is really challenging, and it needs to be instilled in them from a very young age. But, you know, I think you know, the important thing to to mention there is that, like I was saying that the really good dogs think it’s fun. It’s not, you know, you may think that the dog is this big scary bark, right? Like the you know, if a dog is growling usually it’s because they think something is threatening. More often than not, these dogs are more predatory towards the bears. So you may hear there bear bark is really squeaky and high pitched. Because they are excited and risky. Right? They think this is really great. It’s not a big threatening leg. Good, you know, railroads.

Kayla Fratt  47:54

Fascinating. Yeah, I definitely was imagining some like big scary, not obey because they’re not hounds, but like a bit rough sort of thing.

48:04

Yeah, not necessarily some of them do. But there’s something about the intention behind the bark, too. That’s different, I’ve noticed. Because I can, you know, I can have my dogs bark on command. And in some cases, I will just have them bark. But I’ve watched bears can think of one instance in particular where a bear was digging roots out in the field. And I didn’t want the bear to come back towards the campground. So I was just having the dogs bark a little bit. And dogs were just barking on command not really barking at anything, but then the wind changed. You know, and that bear was just out there for just digging roots, but then listening to the barking, but then the wind changed. And all of a sudden, the dogs could smell the bear. And they did their bear bark, which is a lot more intense, I would say then just sort of the barks I have them do on command. And when that bear heard them, do that bark, it took off running because there’s something different about the bark that the intention behind it.

Nils Pedersen  49:08

So yeah, and I’ve heard people say that that’s something unique to Karelian bear dogs. I’m not sure that that’s true so much. It’s just a dog that is excited and focused on the bear. And so there is something different about the barking too, for sure. But you know, getting back to your question here about injuries to bears, dogs and people, just really strict safety protocols working the dogs, you know, mostly on leash. There are scenarios where we will turn the dogs off leash, but usually that’s in response to a bear that’s really not getting the message and it requires a little bit more intense hazing harassment of that there and often times, what we’ll do in that scenario, this is a bear that’s been trapped, it’s been coming into conflict with people may trap it, color it or put an ear tag on it. So we know which bear this is, and then start an aversive conditioning program with it by releasing that bear and doing what’s called a hard release. Whereas the bear comes out of the trap from the side, we’re going to hit it in the boat with rubber bullets.

Nils Pedersen  50:22

And then usually, we’re doing this with black bears that have a good climbing tree, and we’re going to release the dogs. So the dogs chase that bear give it that pursuit, and then it climbs the tree, give it time to climb the tree. And, you know, in that case, well then recall the dogs. And, you know, we’re usually using only two dogs. In those instances, we don’t want to pay the bear up, we don’t want to teach it that it has to fight back fight with dogs, right out there, here’s a lot more to this than just harassing the animal, we want to learn something from this. And we needed to learn that, that I can leave and it has to leave, this is the way out. We want it to lose ground to us right away, we want it to associate the barking, and the uncomfortable stimulus with humans and our presents. Many cases we want if we can, when we’re doing this, we want the conditioning stimulus that this bear is pairing with the discomfort to be human voices, right and to be will say, hey, bear, or let the bear you know, we want as best we can to communicate to this animal that people are in need to be wary of people and move around us. But they don’t need to be afraid of us to the extent where they feel like they need to be fighting back when they have a human encounter.

Nils Pedersen  51:50

So it’s, it’s nuanced. And it needs to be done right. And, you know, a lot of places that we work are highly populated with people. So we do have to be really careful about how we’re doing things. And, you know, I would also mention that in some cases, when we’re doing this work. Take for example, a bear that’s been shot and self defense. Or in other cases, we’ve helped recover bears that have been shot for hunters that can’t find them. Other cases, we’re responding to fatal Mullings in which a bear has killed and fed on someone. And in those cases, the goal is lethal management of that bear. Yeah. So when I say that we’ve never had an injury to a bear, that’s excluding what I’m going to describe here as applied management where the goal is actually lethal.

Kayla Fratt  52:44

Right? Yeah, it’s not it. Yeah, the injuries have never come from the dogs getting out of hand or something. And I really appreciate as well your distinction about, you know, you’re not being the mayor up, you really want to make sure that they’re associating this discomfort and unpleasant stimuli with the humans as well. And I think, you know, talking to you, you’ve already done such a good job of really incorporating that nuance, and how thoughtful you all are. And, you know, almost through decades of experience doing this work, because one of the things as we were prepping for this interview that I wanted to make sure we really got across is that you all are like really truly experts on this. And there is a lot that goes into this and I don’t want anyone to walk away from this interview thinking that like, oh yeah, my dog barks when bears come by so like I can, you know, I can put up put a shingle on my door as a as a bear deterrent specialist and I that I get to travel to Canada for six months a year doing this professionally and like know, if someone is interested in that, though, it sounds like you’ve got some resources within Wind River though. Yeah.

53:50

Yeah, absolutely. And I appreciate you saying that, you know, our approach is that of wildlife biologists working to reduce human wildlife conflict. And you know, beyond the work that we’re doing a lot of the the work that we’re doing with the dogs a lot of what we’re up to is recording incidents, bear attractants present on the landscape what’s drawing bears into places and creating conflict with people. So it’s there’s a lot to it beyond just the working with the dogs, the dogs are keystone to the approach and on every way, oftentimes backtracking bears, we don’t need the bear to be there in order to backtrack it find some bear scout and look in that bear scout and say, Yeah, sure enough, it’s full of corn and over here, they’ve got you know, think feed, birdseed or whatever, you know, Bear Scouts full of bird seed and figure out what the bear attractant was and where the bear was coming from. Track it to the, you know, the barbed wire fence where yeah, there’s bear hair here and we can take many of these things including things bears have chewed on, take saliva samples, take hair samples, even feet It’ll samples for DNA analysis, start getting an idea of what bears doing what, right? Because especially if an agency is making the determination to trap and kill an animal, you really want to make sure you’re getting the right animal, right.

Kayla Fratt  55:15

Yeah, that’s important.

55:17

Yeah. So I guess they bring some of the stuff up, just to point out that conservation can be complicated. And it’s not always pleasant either. Totally. Yeah, we do also deal with fairly unpleasant situations. That’s not the focus of our organization, but it’s something we’re capable of doing. And I think it’s a valuable service. And ultimately, is important from a conservation standpoint, because a lot of what we’re working with here is people and people’s perceptions of wildlife. And it’s really important that people aren’t afraid. And understand that there are resources available to them, there are better ways of doing things and how to do things better. Because that’s what we’re all working towards here ultimately, is trying to do things better, and do do the right thing by wildlife. But yeah, we do, we do have internship opportunities come available with winter river bear Institute. And, you know, that’s something that you can reach out to us, our website is better dogs.org. And that’s the best way to get in touch with us. I can give you my email and contact information, maybe you can post with.

Kayla Fratt  56:36

Yeah, we’ll share all the contact info in our in our, in our show notes. And, yeah, I really appreciate that. And like I’ve genuinely been really impressed. I didn’t I didn’t reach out to you expecting you to be a total cowboy. Um, I thought that that was the operation y’all were running, I wouldn’t have had you on the show. But I’ve been really impressed with, you know, the level of Yeah, wildlife biology and conservation biology that comes into this and just how thoughtful this approach is, you know, it, it sounds like a pretty cool gig. But I you know, you do an excellent job of really bringing across just how impactful this is, and how important it is and how careful you are with it. And it’s not just being careful to make sure you don’t get eaten by a bear. Which I think is what most people think. But like everything else about really making sure it’s done, right.

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57:23

Yeah, absolutely. And I’m glad you brought up the point of folks living in bear country. Having dogs, you know, there’s some research out there that would indicate that dogs oftentimes can lead to negative encounters between people and bears. So it’s worth being mindful of, you know, dogs off leash in bear country. You know, I guess I’d add to that in Cougar country in places with wolves, coyotes.

Kayla Fratt  57:57

Yeah, I’m gonna be working on Prince of Wales Island and the surrounding islands this coming summer. That’s how you and I connected actually on a very cool webinar from Alaska Fish and Game about dogs finding seal dens, we’re hoping to get them on the show as well, because I’m obsessed. But yeah, I’m planning on probably working barley, my dog mostly on leash because we’re looking for wolf scat. And we’re in an area, there’s no brown bears there. But it is the highest concentration of black bears in North America is what I’ve been told. I feel like I’ve heard that claim about a couple different places. So it might be time. Yeah, the point is, it’s, it’s enough that people claim it’s the highest. And yeah, you know, barley has incredibly high levels of training at this point. But the scary spare counter I ever had was about a year into getting involved before we were in the conservation world. And I unclipped his leash on a long driveway in Northern California after we’ve just run like 50 miles. And he had a sow bear charged each other. And he barked at her. And then he came running back to me and she huffed at me and then walked away, and her cubs went up a tree, and she she was the one who chose to de escalate that situation, because we would have been really, really hosed. And yeah, you know, we’ve done a lot of training to make sure that’s not likely to happen again. But, you know, yeah, it’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of things to think about working in bear country and Wolf country and all of that.

59:32

Absolutely. And that situation you described is pretty typical of how people end up crossways with their screen and the dog, the dog comes back to you, and then maybe the bear comes after the dog right and who knows. You know? Usually the dog is too fast to the bear and it ends up taking it out on you or maybe thinks you’re the threat at the time because perhaps you’re yelling at your dog are yelling at the bear. And this bear is just trying to neutralize the threat to its cubs. And so, yeah, it’s kind of hard to blame the bear for it. But unfortunately people, the ones usually that end up getting crossways with that bear. And so it’s really worth keeping in mind and you brought up wolves as well, which is important. You know, the one thing I do worry about with my dogs are wolves. Wolves can catch these dogs, the advantage that the Carolien bear dog has with the bears that it’s just way more fast and agile. It can just dance around the bear and bark. And maybe the bear tries to catch the dog, but the dogs too fast. And it just pivots and runs around and barks and you know, bears walk on their heels, dogs walk on their toes, they just are much more capable and faster burst of speed. Yeah, exactly. So you know, that’s the advantage they have with the bear. But with the wolf, different story wolves are found to catch these dogs. And that is what you know, hunters do lose dogs each year to wolf kills and it is important to keep in mind. You know? Yeah.

Kayla Fratt  1:01:17

It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be a fun season safety wise.

1:01:19

Yeah, well, I wish you the best of luck there. That should be a really neat place to work. I’ve never been to Prince of Wales Island, but I’ve heard a lot about it. And if you make

Kayla Fratt  1:01:28

your way down and you want to you want to wander around the field together, I’d be I’d be thrilled to take out. Oh, that’d be really neat.

Nils Pedersen  1:01:35

And, yeah, you know, because there’s a couple things to say about that. There also, also, I think, a lot of deer on Prince of Wales, which is another thing careful with my dogs about, you know, don’t want to have to harass wildlife any more than we are tasked with doing right. And I think that’s just something to keep in mind. For folks with dogs, that new dog may be out there harassing animals and may not be necessary or a nice thing to do. So always good to keep in mind, and especially folks that end up getting primitive hunting dogs like Karelian, bear dogs. You know, that’s kind of what the dog is bred to do. And if you don’t want them to do that, keep them on leash. It’s my recommendation. And just just be cognizant of it and mindful, because, you know, oftentimes these these animals out there, they’re already having a hard enough time getting around. They don’t need to be chased around by your dog too.

Kayla Fratt  1:02:37

Yeah, absolutely. No, it’s It’s a huge thing for us. And, you know, part of what I was so excited to talk to you about, it’s all of our training with our dogs is on how to just not interact with the wildlife at all, you know, they’re supposed to have a default notice and pause or notice and recall is what we really tried to get them to do without even necessarily us interrupting them. And we primarily work with Border Collies because they are so responsive. And you know, as a farmer, if you can’t call your Border Collie, after your sheep, you’re probably not breeding that border collie. So we, you tend to get this really, really high level of responsiveness that’s helpful for us. But it doesn’t mean accidents don’t happen. It doesn’t mean you know, when you’re intentionally wandering around looking for the scat of wildlife, you know, the animal had to be there at some point to deposit the scat. So we do still end up in situations where we could run into these animals and I haven’t yet run into a bear or a moose while I’m working with dogs or a wolf for that matter, but you know, plenty of deer and jackrabbits and cattle, lots of cattle open range and that’s, you know, you know, a cattle cattle can toss people and trample cows about as easily as anything else out there.

Nils Pedersen  1:03:53

Absolutely. Here I mean, here in Alaska, that thing I deal with mostly as moose and they are terrifying and you do have to be really careful around them. But, you know, I should mention we also do a lot of training with our dogs on targets and right we want to find there and dead things. There have been some instances where I have worked with Moose to help deter them. But by and large, you know, it’s bears in some places cougars. But we do have to work hard because the Karelian bear dogs, especially the ones we select for work, they want to hunt everything right and so we really have to focus them in on bear and encourage them to think that this is the highest reward for finding bear scat; tracking bears, running bear sign. Yeah, you name it. Yep.

Kayla Fratt  1:04:48

Bear, bear, bear, bear, bear.

1:04:49

Yeah, very much so and it can be challenging. You know, I was working with my one year old female this past fall in Hunan, southeast Alaska there and lots of deer Round and we don’t have deer here in Fairbanks. So this is an this is a critter that she’s not real familiar with. So really, you know, reinforce one species and really try to get her to knock it off with the deer.

Kayla Fratt  1:05:16

Oh, that’s funny. Yeah, I didn’t even realize you don’t have deer up in Fairbanks. We had I mean, the closest we’ve had to that was the first time my dog saw coatis when we were down in Central America. You know, they both were just like, What is that thing? Like it’s got a tail that’s a meter tall and snuffling around like a cat, like, you know, like weird cat raccoon, Meerkat things. And both of the dogs, like, their first response was to almost like, almost like shift their weight back, not that they were scared, but they were just like, what is it? Yeah, that’s how a lot of tourists react to their very weird little animals. All right, we’ve already gone live. So is there anything that you wanted to circle back to or expand on or anything I forgot to ask you about that you wanted to make sure we talked about before I let you go?

1:05:59

No, I think covered quite a bit, there’s also just a lot more to talk about a lot information on our website, beardogs.org. And we’re active on Facebook and Instagram, as well as a good places to keep up on what we’re up to. And I think, you know, fundamentally, these dogs are, are part of our family, you know, they always belong to people not to agencies, or companies or anything like that they are really bonded to their people. And that’s their whole world is their people in their pack. You know, as much as we love our dogs and, and they’re part of our families. And I think it’s important to also consider that these dogs are a tool in the management toolbox. And there’s an appropriate way to use that tool. And they’re going to be circumstances that aren’t appropriate to use that tool. But I do think that this is the most versatile tool out there. Because their capabilities for detection, for for conflict work, but also for public education, and outreach. And I’m of the opinion that, you know, when it comes to management, and especially non lethal, trying to do things in a better way, we need to be bringing every tool in the toolbox to help reduce conflict with wildlife, help improve interactions between people and wildlife, especially bears and some of these other critters that tend to find themselves in conflict with people.

Nils Pedersen  1:07:26

So, you know, I’m really encouraging, especially the National Park Service to consider include incorporating these dogs into their way of doing things too, because to my mind, you know, these national parks and state parks, provincial parks, that’s where bears are supposed to be, we really don’t want to have to be killing bears in parks, if we Yeah, but And so bringing every tool that we can to help reduce the need for lethal management practices, I think is really important. And also, you know, I’ll just add to that, you know, the public education and outreach component cannot be overstated. Yes, dogs really appeal to people in a way that no other tool can, you know, oftentimes bear resistant containers and electric fences is really what we need in these circumstances. But I’ve yet to meet a, you know, a group of people that really want to come check out your trash can or really want to come interact with your electric fence, the dogs engage with people in a way that is completely different. bring people on board, starting conversations between, you know, with, with people from all ends of the spectrum, whether they think we should be shooting every bear, we see, or feeding the bears or whatever, you know, we can start conversations and talk to people.

Nils Pedersen  1:08:51

And I do think the dogs change the conversation as well. And for whatever reason, most people tend to think that the dog is on their side, and they want to help the dog, even if they don’t want to help you. And so I think, you know, taking that into consideration, I think is, you know, it’s not always the picture on the cover of the article or whatever is the dog like interacting with people and conducting public safety, education, their safety, education and other you know, usually what you see is the dog off leash chasing a bear, which is really very small part of the work that we do. And so I just want to put that out there and encourage folks to think about how, you know, I get the question a lot, like, do you think this is going to work? And I would encourage you to, maybe to reframe that question, and that is what needs to be done. How can we accomplish that? You know, the dogs can help with these things, but they’re not gonna be able to help with everything. There are circumstances in which it is appropriate to to stand back and do more public, you know, management of people rather than getting in there and engaging with the bear, because that’s not always safe to do. And it’s not always appropriate. Our organization is very sensitive to that. And, you know, we, the goal is not to get our dogs on bears, the goal is to improve interactions and reduce the need for lethal and enhance the effectiveness of wildlife professionals working in this field. So that would be my that would be my final closing. Excellent.

Kayla Fratt  1:10:42

No, I think that’s a great place to end it. And, you know, as I think we’re really putting that, that communication piece to point because I wouldn’t have you on this show, if we were just talking about ways to reduce human bear conflict. We’re here because we want to talk about the dogs. Yes, absolutely not. And

1:11:02

I would add to that, you know, the detection component is is huge. And the work that you’re doing, and other folks are doing for conservation, using dogs to find scat to find dangerous species. You know, to find Edna, this stuff is really important. And it’s really neat. And actually, that’s often the most enjoyable part of my job is when I’m doing detection. Yeah, that’s part of why the the den detection stuff I found so appealing, because, you know, you find that they’re done. And everybody’s pretty happy. Usually, maybe the oil companies aren’t thrilled that they have to put their activities off until, you know, May, but they’d rather do that and then end up having a, you know, bad encounter with the bear. And you know, that detection, work with dogs is really neat. And it’s why, you know, largely why I got into this work, and still where I find the most joy in this work. And so I’d encourage anyone who’s interested in working with dogs for conservation to get involved with that kind of work.

Nils Pedersen  1:12:08

And, you know, you brought up the the seal haulout detection work that folks are doing with dogs, that’s actually how we started using our dogs for for polar bear den detection was because these folks are using them for seals, you can use them for Yeah, can you probably use them for for bears as well, and they could. But part of the reason I think Karelians became the preferred dog to use is because they’re an Arctic breed good feed good coats capable in that landscape. And also, because, you know, it’s only the pregnant female polar bears that are gone to Den, there are still some adults and males out and about. So you would be, it would be beneficial to have a dog that’s going to be helpful in the case that you did have a encounter with is there an actual encounter as part of that work? Yeah, that’s, that’s a tangent. Just made me think of it. But, ya know, I, and I think beyond that, you know, during dog training, dog rehabilitation, dog rescue, you know, understanding dog behavior. I think, when I was in school and interested in studying animal behavior, I didn’t think that studying dog behavior was something interesting, or something people really did even. But, you know, it turns out, studying dog behavior and understanding dogs and being able to train them and work with them is one of the well, it is the most interesting work done, I would say, that’s why I do this work is largely because of the joy I get from from training and working and understanding dog behavior. So I would just mentioned that for young folks out there that might be interested in studying animal behavior, but you know, may have a tough time finding work within that field or something studying dog behavior and working with dogs is really fascinating.

Kayla Fratt  1:14:07

Yeah, yeah, definitely. And it’s something you can start probably within the next couple of weeks. For some absolutely. Versus Behavioral Ecology.

Nils Pedersen  1:14:18

Some experience with it. Yep. Yeah, exactly.

Kayla Fratt  1:14:20

Yeah. Well, Nils, thank you so much. I feel like you and I could keep talking for another three or four hours, but we do probably need to let our listeners go. Let both of us gotta go take care of our our dogs. So we’ll be sure to link beardogs.org in the show notes. And with all of that, I hope that everyone at home is feeling inspired to get outside and be a canine conservationist in whichever way suits your passions and skill set. Feel free to reach out to Wind River Bear Institute if you’re excited about an internship there. You can find our show notes where we’ve got all the links we just mentioned, a store where you can buy stickers and T shirts and all that sort of stuff. And you can sign up for our online mentorship club or online course, again all at k9conservationists.org. Thanks so much Nils!