Category Archives: wildlife

How Elvis the Beagle is Helping to Save Polar Bears

By Linda Cole

I love reading stories highlighting the exceptional abilities of dogs, especially when it comes to using their extraordinary sense of smell in wildlife conservation. When a dog’s nose is used to aid endangered or threatened apex predators, that helps preserve the natural balance in an ecosystem. Researchers have discovered that the super nose of a two year old Beagle named Elvis can help scientists better understand the polar bear reproductive cycle.

The idea of training a dog to detect if a polar bear is pregnant began with one of the scientists at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), after he read about studies using dogs to sniff out cancer. No one knew if using a canine to detect polar bear pregnancies was possible, but it was worth trying because of the difficulty zoo keepers had confirming it on their own.

Polar bears are listed on the Endangered Species list as threatened because of loss of habitat and climate change. If a bear is suspected of being pregnant, zoo officials begin to prepare for the birthing process whether she’s pregnant or not. They want to do everything they can towards the survival and care of cubs born at their facilities. Males need to be separated from the female, dens need to be prepared with proper bedding, video cameras are set up to monitor what’s going on, and staff and volunteers are needed around the clock. Few cubs are born to polar bears living in zoos, and many cubs born in the wild don’t survive.

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What to do if Your Dog Encounters Wildlife

By Linda Cole

For the past few months, I’ve been checking my dog pen before letting the dogs outside because an opossum has been visiting us nearly every night. I missed seeing it once, and my dog grabbed it and shook it. As soon as the marsupial sensed danger, it played dead. The tactic befuddled my dog and he promptly dropped it. My concern is for both my dogs and the opossum. I don’t want either one to get hurt, and it’s a bit uncomfortable pulling dogs away from a wild critter not knowing for sure how either one might react. Because encountering wildlife can present a problem for dogs, it’s always a good idea to know what to do in various situations.

Possums are docile animals that don’t normally pose a threat to dogs or cats. However, they can attack when provoked, sick or protecting their young. When attacked and there’s no way to escape, a possum “plays dead” and won’t move for any reason. You can’t prod him along no matter what you do. The best thing you can do is leave him alone. When he feels the danger has passed, he wiggles his ears to listen before raising his head to check around to make sure it’s safe to move along. This can take a couple of minutes, up to an hour or so.
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How the Karelian Bear Dog is Saving Wildlife

Mishka meets an abandoned bear cub

By Linda Cole

Humans have raised, bred and trained dogs to perform specific jobs for centuries. Canines have been used to guard flocks, homes and families, and to perform tricks to amuse us. There are even wildlife detection dogs. When we use the talents of dogs, it not only makes a job we have to do easier, it can also be the most effective way of taking care of a problem. A biologist working for the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to combat a bear problem by utilizing one of the most efficient solutions to wandering bears – the Karelian Bear Dog. With the help of this brave dog breed, wildlife is being saved, and people are better protected.

The Karelian Bear Dog (KBD) is a rare and ancient breed native to Finland. They were bred to hunt elk, lynx, cougar, deer, moose, boar and bear. This fearless dog is ready to fiercely fight to the death to protect his owner, if necessary. This isn’t a breed that likes to share his human with other dogs, and is dog aggressive. Nor is this a breed for someone who doesn’t know how to properly train and control a powerful dog.

Mishka is ready to go to work!

The Karelian Bear Dog is a natural hunter with a high prey drive, picking up both air and ground scents. A medium sized dog, standing 19 to 23 inches and weighing 40 to 65 pounds, the KBD is independent, extremely loyal, tough and an intelligent guard dog. The Karelian Bear Dog has no problem standing up to large prey, and he will not back down.

Anytime wildlife officials can find nonlethal methods to deal with problem predators getting too close to where humans live, it’s a good thing for the environment, the animals and people. The KBD is capable of dealing with a Grizzly bear, but Washington State primary uses the dogs to control black bear. A pilot program in 2007 was set up with one dog, Mishka, and his handler, WDFW Officer Bruce Richards. It didn’t take long for both of them to prove their worth by effectively dealing with complaints about problem bears.

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