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Dogs come between Yosemite bears and campers

dog August 24, 1997
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EDT (0320 GMT)

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (CNN) -- "Cassie, find the bears. Tuffy, find the bears," Carrie Hunt orders as her dogs chase the massive animals from a Yosemite National Park campsite.

Trained dogs in Yosemite Nat'l Park drive away bears from campsites.
video icon 1.3M/31 sec. QuickTime movie

Hunt is a Karelian bear dog trainer, who is participating in a U.S. Park Service experiment to use dogs to keep bears away from campers.

"Last year, the bears did about $300,000 in property damage to vehicles and tents, and to ice chests -- they really go for those ice chests," says the park's Kendell Thompson. The quest for the tasty human foodstuffs leads makes bears aggressive, forcing Yosemite rangers to kill about three of the troublesome animals a year.


Hunt says her dogs teach the bears lessons that can save them from that fate.

"(We try) to teach the bears that they can live all around a campground like Tuolumne (Meadows), but they can't be in it. We don't want to have to relocate them; we don't want to have to destroy them."

Karelian bear dogs originated in Russia, where they were used as watchdogs and game hunters by peasants there and in Finland. The dogs can hunt moose, deer and their specialty -- bears.

At Yosemite, the dog patrols also target campers, warning them to keep their food in secure places where bears can't reach it.

The chase is on


Shortly after dark, Hunt's dogs pick up the scent of a bear that's been hanging around the Tuolumne campsite.

Hunt says the dogs have taught four other bears to avoid the area, and she thinks this one's starting to get the message.

"It's a bear we know. As soon as we got on her -- we were in the middle of the campground -- she headed out."

Some campers complain that maybe the dogs are too effective. They say they like to see bears at Yosemite.

"I was kind of disappointed to not see any bears," said one camper. "(But) it's like a relief, for safety reasons."


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