GREAT FALLS- Montana FWP Prairie Bear Monitor station in Conrad recently received two new recruits to their team; but they aren't your typical employees.
The FWP Bear Management Office recently adopted 2 Airedale dogs from Rock Creek Airedale in Oklahoma whose names are Gunner and Huckleberry Henry.
The dogs will be trained from sunrise to sunset with only one goal in mind... to help keep you and your family safe from bears.
“If bears get close to us, the dogs will help protect us,” explains Wesley Sarmento, FWP Bear Management Specialist in Conrad.
“It's really important to have these bear dogs to keep people safe and to keep bears out of trouble. If bears are kept out of trouble, they stay away from people, which is safer for us and it's also better for the bears because then they're not having to be trapped and moved or re-moved,” further explains Sarmento.
However, the dogs aren't ready quite yet.
While they do know basic commands such as sit and stay, they still have a lot of training to do before they're ready to take on a bear.
“It's a long process. Starts early in the morning, ends late at night; we train them all day. We start slow and small, so we're going to start the dogs out on small things like squirrels and rabbits and raccoons. And then when they start to build up their confidence and understanding of their abilities, then we'll start to go after bigger animals. So then we'll start with small grizzly bears and work our way up from there,” says Sarmento.
Once the dogs are fully trained, they'll be out and about with the staff on a daily basis.
While they're goal is to help keep you and your property safe, Sarmento says there's another reason they'll be keeping the dogs close by.
“A lot of times we're called out to a farm or ranch and we're told there's a grizzly bear in the shelter belt, and we show up, and these shelter belts can be really thick. So it can be heard to detect where the grizzly bear actually is. And so the dogs will help us detect where the bears are and if the bears get close to us, the dogs will help protect us,” explains Sarmento.
While this might be the first set of bear dogs seen in Conrad, Sarmento says they’re no stranger to other cities not only here in Montana, but across the nation.
“In Washington state and Nevada, they use bear dogs extensively, and that's been quite successful in those programs at keeping bears away from people.
Montana FWP Bear Management in Conrad says one of the best ways you can continue to help is by being bear aware.
Be sure to put your food away while you're camping, and let them know of any bear sightings.