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Fish and Wildlife officers say goodbye to long serving bear management dog
CTV Calgary Staff
Published Friday, January 8, 2016 4:37PM MST
Last Updated Friday, January 8, 2016 6:07PM MST
The last of the remaining members of Alberta Fish and Wildlife’s first pair of bear management dogs has passed away.
Kuma the Karelian Bear Dog, one of Canada’s first dogs assigned to track and direct bears, died Wednesday at the age of 15.
Alongside his brother Mica, Kuma assisted Fish and Wildlife officers in southern Alberta with keeping wildlife from wandering into dangerous scenarios for both the animals and the human population.
“Originally, it was just working with bears,” explained district officer John Clarke, “but we worked moose, cougars, bighorn sheep, just about anything where we needed to scare the animals away from someplace for some reason.”
According to his handlers, there was no greater thrill for Kuma than to receive the command ‘Get the bear!’. Kuma excelled at tracking and treeing bears and his skills drew the attention of documentarians and media outlets including CTV News, Discovery Channel and National Geographic.
Clarke credits Kuma with saving his life on two occasions. The bear management dog fended off the advances of a ferocious grizzly bear and a rampaging moose during the pair’s time together.
“It actually circled back on us,” recalls Clarke. “I looked to my side and saw this moose coming at me.”
“Kuma actually just dove in the air, hit it in the chest, and knocked it off balance. I was very impressed with how he did that. He got a steak that night.”
Clarke says Kuma never failed to do his job and made a lasting impression on so many people and animals in the Crowsnest Pass. Kuma’s impact on Clarke’s life was apparent in the days after the dog’s passing.
“Sad day when you lose him”
While he could terrify bears, cougars and other large wildlife, Kuma was gentle with people and other animals. Christy Pool of the Crowsnest Pass Bearsmart Association says Kuma became an important and valued part of the pet rescue and orphan wildlife program.
“It was not unusual to come in and find Kuma snuggling with a baby, whether it was a kitten, a puppy or a fawn,” said Pool.
“Kuma set a standard higher than anyone could have expected out of a dog.”
Kuma was retired in 2012 but he devoted his retirement years to public relations work. When visiting local schools and preschools, he’d be spoiled with treats and cuddles by the excited children.
“All of the kids remembered him years and years and years later,” said Jo Proc of Kids Kollege Preschool.
Kuma’s younger sister Koda, Kuma’s former partner, now carries the lead in the field.
With files from CTV Lethbridge's Terry Vogt