Chance to Meet the Karelian Bear Dogs in Person, January 2nd

In her latest column, North Bend resident and pet trainer at Le Chic Pet, Melissa Grant, learns about the special dogs used by the Department of Fish and Wildlife to help keep local bears in the wild and out of neighborhoods.


In honor of the “Discovering Wildlife” event at the Cedar River Watershed Education Center in North Bend on Friday, January 2, 2014, I decided to write a little bit about one of their events: Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Karelian Bear Dogs, Meet the dogs who Keep Wild Animals in the Wild, which runs at 10:30 AM and 12:30 AM.

I have to admit, I’ve never worked with a Karelian Bear Dog (KBD). They don’t seem to be a popular breed in the area, but I knew that I had seen several here in the Valley and put out a request to find local owners. While waiting for someone to come forward, I did a little research on this intelligent and tenacious breed of pooch.

What I found is that some people do not consider these dogs to be good pets because of their intense, independent hunting instincts. While I did find other people who would disagree with that characterization, I think both groups would agree this dog is not a “beginning” pooch.

Bear Dog Origins

Originating in Northeastern Europe in Scandinavia, the KBD has been around since the Neolithic times. It was bred to hunt small, furry mammals such as squirrels and marten, but it also had a very specialized use. The KBD alone, and in pairs, was used to help hunt Eurasian Brown bears. The dogs would bother and bark at the bear, loudly, alerting the hunter so he could move in for the kill.

While the dogs still are used for hunting, now there are several national parks in the U.S. that use these dogs for non-lethal predator control. They are an effective way to make the bear avoid humans.

The dogs are used when releasing bears back into the wild. A remote area is chosen, the dogs then approach the trap where the bear is, barking furiously. When the bear is released, wildlife officers release the dogs to chase them back into the forest.

While all of this commotion is going on, the wildlife officers are shooting bean bags andat the bear and blanks into the air. Sounds terrible for the bear, right? That’s exactly what the officers want – to make the bear understand that humans are scary and they should never go near one.

Bears are important to our environment and we want them around, just not near humans where they might be killed.

Local Bear Dog

After reading about these fierce hunters, I was finally put into contact with Rhonda and her three-year old female KBD namedschatzi Schatzi. While Schatzi is not a working KBD like some of the other dogs I heard about (You can hear the story of Mishka who works for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday), she was intentionally adopted to protect her family while they trail hike. Unlike other sources, Rhonda told me Schatzi is a GREAT pet.

Rhonda’s exact words to describe Schatzi were: very independent and smarter than any other breed we’ve worked with. Great around kids and family dog but very protective and generally very quiet unless chasing something.”

Sounds like Rhonda considers the breed to be a good pet, but she did stress the need for lots of socialization and training. [Please be sure to research ANY breed of dog you are considering adopting to make sure he or she will be a good fit.]

Now that I learned a little bit about the Karelian Bear Dog this week, I’ll probably head up the Education center on Friday and learn some more – see these pooches in action. Hope to see you there!  Below is detailed info about the event.

DISCOVERING WILDLIFE in the CEDAR RIVER WATERSHED, January 2nd

Join Seattle Public Utilities for a fun-filled day of discovering wildlife in the Cedar River Watershed through hands-on activities, crafts, presentations, and nature walks during the winter school break. Discover what kinds of wildlife live and thrive throughout Seattle’s largest protected watershed.

All-day Presentations and Activities, Friday January 2nd, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

  • WDFW Karelian Bear Dogs: Meet the Dogs who Keep Wild Animals in the Wild: 10:30 AM and 12:30 PM
  • Mountains to Sound Greenway 365 activities: 11:30 AM
  • Family Nature Walks: Rattlesnake Lakeshore Exploration:  11AM, Noon and 2PM
  • Wildlife craft activities, animal tracks, and more:  All Day
  • Examine owl pellets and discover what was for breakfast:  All Day
  • Explore the Center’s Water is Magic exhibits:  ALL Day

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