Saturday, 11 August 2012

Aspiring filmmakers turn lenses on Karelian bear dogs for awareness

In a perfect world, the Wind River Bear Institute wouldn’t exist, and the Karelian bear dogs wouldn’t have a job chasing wildlife off humanity’s doorstep.

But as long as people live in the woods, leave food on their porch and maintain sloppy campgrounds, conflicts with wildlife will continue and the dogs will stay employed.

“We find bears that come into areas inhabited by humans – campgrounds, dumps and neighborhoods – and we teach the bears to stay in the wilderness,” said dog handler Tim Cavey. “We use the dogs to do that.”

Handlers with the Wind River institute, based in Florence, performed an education skit Wednesday with aspiring filmmakers with the International Wildlife Media Center and its training arm, the Montana Film Academy.

The students will produce independent shorts based on the lessons learned during the institute’s performance. Their message was simple: Keep food and other attractants away from bears.

“If you have a candy store sitting in your front yard, you can’t ask a bear to leave it alone,” said Wind River kennel director Renee Van Camp. “We’re dropping homesteads in their territory and not only asking them to go around, but we’re putting their favorite foods right in our front yards and telling them not to touch it.”

Van Camp and members of the Wind River institute are on a twofold mission, which begins by teaching curious bears to keep away from people. The second goal – and the more difficult of the two – aims to teach people to change their habits around wildlife and keep their food secured.

While it’s common sense to most who camp in the backcountry or live in bear habitat, not everyone is getting the message. From the greater Yellowstone ecosystem to the Bitterroot Valley and Glacier National Park, bears are destroyed every year due to conflicts with humans.


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