NPO picchio Wild Bear Mt.Asama
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We implement several steps to discriminate between bears and to apply appropriate management methods for each respective bear.

Capture

Work after a capture
To individualize each bear, we are currently making an effort to capture and to radio-collar every bear in the town. When bear problems occur repeatedly in one location, we put out our bear-friendly traps to catch that bear. They are traps specially designed so that a bear will not break its teeth or claws biting and scratching at the trap. When we catch a new bear, we weigh and measure it. We collect hair and blood samples, and then attach ear tags and a radio collar before releasing it.

Release

Releasing a bear
We do a hard release, with aversive conditioning (the exception is for bears caught in mountainous areas). When we release a bear, we carefully plan the placement of the trap, vehicles, and people at the release site so that the bear will go in the direction we want him to go and not turn and run at us. The bear will be barked at by dogs and yelled at from the moment he is in the trap. When he comes out of the trap, we pepper spray him, shoot him in the rump with an air gun, and make a lot of noise with firecrackers. The whole time, people are yelling and dogs are barking. In this way, we have bears associate people with bad, scary experiences so that they will learn to avoid people.

Monitor

Monitoring during the night
After we release a bear, we monitor it with radio telemetry. This work is done day and night, especially from around the end of May to the end of September. During these periods we go out every night to investigate bear activities, as well as their whereabouts. This is because our bears are active mostly at night in the town. By monitoring, we collect data to help us understand the personality and conflict level of each bear. This data gives us some ideas as to which bears may be causing damage when we get reports from residents.

Investigating the Conflict Level of Each Bear

Each radio-collared bear is first evaluated on the basis of the level of conflict with residents in the area. When we find a bear close to houses, we try to locate the bear precisely without scaring him away. Then the next day, during the daytime when the bear is not there, we go back to the site and find out exactly what it was doing there. We repeat this a couple of times to determine how high its conflict level is.

Bear Shepherding®

In pursuit of a bear with dog and search antenna
This is a method developed by the Wind River Bear Institute to systematically chase bears away from unwanted areas in an attempt to educate them. With this method, we teach bears what areas they can be in and what areas they should not use. This also teaches them to correct inappropriate behavior.
After determining a bear's conflict level, we teach it a lesson when we find him too close to houses. We use voices, dogs, air guns, and firecrackers to push the bear away. One team pushes the bear from behind, and one team blocks the flank to ensure that the bear goes exactly where we want it to go. We will not stop chasing, yelling and the dogs don't stop barking until the bear enters an accepted area. By repeating this several times bears can learn what area they are permitted to enter and areas they should not. We call this work "Bear Shepherding®."
We have been practicing this method under the guidance of the WRBI (Wind River Bear Institute) since 2002. In the summer of 2003 and 2004, WRBI brought their highly trained Karelian Bear Dogs to work with us. In 2004, we obtained our own bear dog puppies from WRBI, and they are currently in training.
Bear dogs

Putting Down Problem Bears

Injecting medicine for euthansia
When determining the conflict levels of bears, there are times when we are forced to make the decision whether to put down problem bears. This becomes necessary when the conflict level of a bear is so high that it has the potential of harming people deliberately to get food. Bears with a high conflict level are hard to teach and it would take tremendous time and effort. Most of the time, it would not be worth the effort as they would simply revert to the same or indeed a higher level of conflict given a short period of time. Our first priority is public safety and we are not willing to risk human lives.
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