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TAHOE WORLD ARTICLE

FROM RUSSIA WITH PUPPY LOVE: Russian breed of canine can help keep bears out of homes, dumpsters

Also appeared in the Tahoe Daily Tribune on April 7, 2006: Karelian pups will be trained to chase bears

Also appeared in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza on April 9, 2006: Russian canines help keep bears out of homes, dumpsters

 
By Kara Fox
April 5, 2006
Grizzly, the father of the two new Karelian bear dog puppies, left, sits obediently beside his trainer, Bill Bates, as the bear-deterring puppies, Anya and Dmytro, explore their new surroundings. Grizzly's coat is a rare color for the Karelian Bear Dog, an instinctually wild game chasing breed. Keith Sheffield/Tahoe World
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The Karelian Bear dog puppies, who will make their home with BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant, will begin their 18 months of training this summer. They will assist Bryant with chasing bears out from beneath houses and in dumpsters. The dogs will learn to find bears, lure them out and then coax them back into the forest. Keith Sheffield /Tahoe World

After eight years of using paint guns and humans to coax bears away from homes, Tahoe's BEAR League has called on some four-legged help.

Anya and Dmytro, nine-week-old Karelian Bear Dogs who arrived in Tahoe last Tuesday, will assist BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant in getting bears back into the forest."I'm getting too old to crawl under houses," Bryant said, referring to her method of waking sleeping bears. "They will help me with my job. ...The three of us will be a team."

This summer, the black and white furry puppies will start 18 months of training to detect and coax bears, chase them back into the forest and learning boundary lines. Originally from Finland and Russia, the Karelian Bear Dog is fast, athletic and extremely intelligent, according to California Karelian Bear Dog Kennel Owner Bill Fantozzi.

"They have an instinctual characteristic that will work with bear, moose, wild boar - all wild game," said Fantozzi, who donated the dogs to the BEAR League. "They are very effective, especially because of their courage and beastial instincts. They jump and play with the bear with their tail wagging."

California Karelian Bear Dog Kennels Trainer Bill Bates will not only teach Anya and Dmytro to track and chase bears, but to respect other wildlife. That means they will not chase squirrels or other creatures, which is important to Bryant, who rehabilitates wildlife in her Tahoma home. Bryant currently lives with two rats, nine squirrels and her pet porcupine, Marvin.

"If they can help the bear and the community, how can you say no to something like this," said Bryant, who was reluctant to become attached to another dog after her dog died years ago. "I said I would never have a dog again. ...They [the puppies' mom and dad] didn't chase the squirrels or bother the porcupine. They will work out with the other wildlife I work with."

Bates, who has trained dogs for more than 20 years, will teach the dogs bear calls, Russian commands and how to do their job without a handler present. He will come to Tahoe with Anya and Dmytro's mother and father, Grizzly and Laska, to help in the training. Bryant will also take the pups to Los Angeles, where Fantozzi's kennel is based.

The dogs will don orange vests with the BEAR League's logo while they are out working. Bryant said she is excited about Tahoe's new addition and hopes the community will be as well.

"They are living with me, but these dogs belong to the community," Bryant noted. "They are our dogs, not my dogs. They are here not only helping bears, but helping people."


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