TEACH YOUR WILDLIFE WELL

Wind River Bear Institute
MEET THE TEAM

Our Story

The Wind River Bear Institute (WRBI) was founded in 1996 by bear biologist, Carrie Hunt, to provide innovative, non-lethal solutions to complex human-wildlife conflict issues. After testing and developing bear spray (perhaps the greatest contribution to the world of non-lethal bear deterrence of our time), Hunt began experimenting with other aversive conditioning tools to teach wild bears how to move around human occupied space, allowing these animals to remain on the landscape without having to be destroyed or relocated. This pursuit led her to the Karelian Bear Dog (KBD) for shepherding of problem wildlife with a focus on grizzly bear.

The KBD is a hardy hunting dog from Finland that is renowned for their ability to pursue and bay large game safely and effectively. Traditional knowledge of the breed indicates that select KBDs from good hunting lines are fearless even in the pursuit of bear. Hunt recognized the utility of KBD for wildlife management and began breeding, testing, selecting, placing, and handling these dogs under the working title “Wildlife K-9” (WK-9).

Taking on the role of conservationist, the highly adaptable WK-9 has proven to be a perfect partner for wildlife managers and an ambassador for educating the public. Hunt developed the concept of “Bear Shepherding” that simultaneously teaches humans to prevent conflicts and teaches problem bears behaviorally based lessons that create boundary awareness and avoidance of human-occupied space.

Over the past 24 years of working with Federal, State, and Provincial agencies, as well as private land owners and industry groups, the WRBI’s Bear Shepherding methods and WK-9 Programs have resulted in over 800 actions on bears annually by the WRBI and our program partners with no injuries to bears, WK-9s, or humans! The WRBI is on a mission to reduce human-caused bear mortality and human-wildlife conflict worldwide. To achieve this goal we are establishing “best practices” within our field through scientific research and applied management. We offer innovative approaches designed to address complex problems in the human-dimensions of wildlife. 

Our Biologists

Carrie Hunt

Founder

M.Sc. Wildlife Biology

Wildlife K-9 Partner: “Akela” “Salla” “Mowgli” “Joni”

Carrie Hunt began training dogs as an 8 year-old girl, having read Kipling’s “The Jungle Book” and at that point dedicating herself to improving communication between humans and animals. During her early years, she trained dogs belonging to her family and friends and took a year off from college to become a “Sea World” San Diego marine mammal caretaker and trainer. But her first love has always been dogs and bears.  Hunt has been a bear biologist and Wildlife K-9 trainer, working with government and private groups, for over 30 years throughout North America and internationally.  Hunt is known for her pioneering work in the area of bear conservation to reduce mortality of wild bears through human-bear conflict resolution and in particular for her work in modifying wild bear behavior through the use of repellents, deterrents and conditioning.  She developed the use of the red pepper spray system that today is widely used to turn approaching bears.  She also developed the first safe and effective methods to modify problem behaviors of wild, free-ranging grizzly bears, through the use of operant conditioning, and teaching the processes applicable in variable conflict situations to wildlife managers, officers and private landowners. Hunt owns and operates the kennel in Florence, Montana.

Claire Edwards

Biologist

B.Sc. Ecology

Wildlife K-9 Partner: “Grace”

Edwards has been working with grizzly and black bears in Yukon, Alberta and BC since 2002, when she worked in Kananaskis Country as part of a work experience program for her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of East London in London, UK. Edwards worked on various ecological and biodiversity field research programs before going on to specialize in human-bear conflict management work in 2012. She is currently enrolled in a M.Sc. in Ecology program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

Nils Pedersen

Director

M.Sc. Wildlife Biology and Conservation

Wildlife K-9 Partners: “Soledad” “Rio” “Mardy”

Nils Pedersen grew up with sled dogs in Fairbanks, Alaska. He understood the utility of working dogs for bear deterrence at a young age because of a photo that his grandpa showed him of one of his Greenland Husky dogs chasing a young polar bear away from camp. Pedersen began working with the WRBI in 2011 as the trainer and handler of “Soledad”. Together they have worked to address human-bear conflict issues with all three species of North American bear: brown, black, and polar bear. Pedersen completed a M.Sc. degree in Wildlife Biology and Conservation from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2019. His research focused on human-grizzly bear conflict in the North Slope oilfields of Alaska and the use of Forward Looking Infrared-equipped drones for grizzly and polar bear den detection in the Arctic. Pedersen owns and operates the WRBI kennel in Fairbanks, Alaska. In his spare time he guides for Arctic Dog Adventure Co., an ecotourism dog mushing company he founded with his partner Lisbet Norris.

 

 

Lori Homstol

Biologist

M.Sc. Ecology

Wildlife K-9 Partner: “Sisko”

Homstol has been working with black and grizzly bears since 1995, when she volunteered on the Lake Louise Grizzly Bear project while completing her Bachelor of Science in General Biology at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Part of her undergraduate thesis included an independent study which was an analysis of black bear response to linear features in Banff National Park. Homstol went on to work in various human-bear conflict projects in Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Japan, and Ecuador. In 2011, Homstol completed a M.Sc. in Ecology investigating the effectiveness of using learning theory to non-lethally manage black bears in Whistler, BC.

Quick Links

ALASKA

Nils Pedersen

P.O. Box 750689 Fairbanks, Alaska 99775

(907) 347-7485

n.pedersen@windriverbearinstitute.org

MONTANA

Carrie Hunt

5353 E. Carlton Creek Road

Florence, Montana 59833

(406) 546-7051

windriver@beardogs.org

Thank you to our supporters:

Wind River Canine Partners LLC

Our Wildlife K-9 Partners

Grace

Born: 2004 – Eilu x Blaze

Sex: Female

Litters:

2006: Grace x Yoki – “Akela” “Cash” “Atlas” “Timber” “Eagle” “Koda”

2008: Grace x Roman – “Baloo” “Peka” “Savute” “Nadi” “Colter” “Motomo” “Oso”

2010: Grace x Roman – “Soledad”

Grace is the senior female member of our Wildlife K-9 Team. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her handler, Claire Edwards. Grace has worked with all three species of North American bear: black, grizzly, and polar bear. Grace is the great-grandmother “Matriarch” of our KBD Program.

Akela

Born: 2006 – Grace x Yoki

Sex: Male

Litters:

2016: Akela x Salla – “Mowgli” “Alta”

2017: Akela x Salla – “Joni”

Akela carries every one of our original lines of foundational KBDs. He is the “Patriarch” of our breeding program and our senior male. Akela’s friendly and affectionate disposition is balanced with his eagerness and drive to find and chase bear. He is considered to be one of the “hottest” Wildlife K-9s that the WRBI has produced, second only to his papa “Yoki”. Akela has stamped every litter that he has produced with his passion and working aptitude. Akela lives in Florence, Montana with his handler, Carrie Hunt.

Baloo

Born: 2008 – Grace x Roman

Sex: Female

Litters:

2011: Baloo x Rooster – “Spencer” “Indefatigable” “Nakiska” “Washoe” “Shoshone” “Tikka” “Hunter” “Seita”

Baloo is one of our most experienced Wildlife K-9s. She has worked with all three species of North American bear: black, grizzly, and polar bear and helped to establish the use of our techniques in California, working in Sequoia National Park to address black bear issues within the park. Baloo is a big, beautiful girl that embodies, in many ways, the stature and persona of her grandma “Eilu”. Many of Baloo’s puppies are working with agencies and individuals in the north west. She lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her partner, Kaitlin Weber.

Soledad

Born: 2010 – Grace x Roman

Sex: Female

Litters:

2014: Soldad x Rooster  – “Oscar” “Tama” “Nanuq” “Nala” “Dazzle II” “Dazzle III”

2017: Soledad x Rio – “Mardy” “Biko II” “Tuli” “Sirkka” “Hula” “Delta”

Soledad is one of our most experienced KBDs. She has worked with all three species of North American bear: black, grizzly, and polar bear. She is best known for her unique look and cool, calm, and collected approach to dealing with challenging situations. Soledad is a dog model, grand-mother of the first litter of KBDs ever to be produced in Japan, and one of the most famous KBDs of all time due to the many times that she has been featured in the media for her conservation work. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her partner, Nils Pedersen.

Rio II

Born: 2013

Sex: Male

Litters:

2017: Soledad x Rio – “Mardy” “Biko II” “Tuli” “Sirkka” “Hula” “Delta”

2018: Tama x Rio – “San” “Shun” “Elf” “Maru” “Dan” “Rela”

Rio II is a brown bear hunting KBD that came from Erauspojan Kennel in Kuusamo, Finland in 2016 to join our team. Since then Rio has produced our first litter of puppies to be born in Alaska and he traveled to Japan in 2018 to produce the first litter of KBDs ever to be born in Japan for bear conservation work with the group Picchio. Rio is an excellent hunting dog and accomplished sled dog. Rio is very sweet and personable and he has stamped every one of his litters with his athletic build, fierce desire to hunt, and his love of people. Rio lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with his partner, Nils Pedersen.

Salla

Born: 2015

Sex: Female

Litters:

2016: Salla x Akela – “Mowgli” “Alta”

2017: Salla x Akela – “Joni”

Salla is a brown bear hunting KBD that came from Erauspojan Kennel in Kuusamo, Finland in 2016 to join our team. Since then Salla has produced two litters of puppies in Montana and worked with local bear and cougar issues.

Ella

Born: 2014

Sex: Female

Ella is a brown bear hunting KBD that came from Erauspojan Kennel in Kuusamo, Finland in 2016 to join our team. Ella lives with Bill Lavelle in Whitefish, MT where she helps address local bear issues.

Mowgli

Born: 2016 – Salla x Akela

Sex: Male

Mowgli is the first born son of Akela. He is an up and coming lead dog with a great sense of humor. Mowgli has been training and working with his handler, Carrie Hunt, in Montana to become a Wildlife K-9.

Mardy

Born: 2017 – Soledad x Rio

Sex: Female

Mardy is named in honor of Margaret Murie, the famous wildlife conservationist. Mardy lives up to her name in her outgoing and inquisitive nature. Within minutes of being born, Mardy was trying to find a way to escape from her whelping box. Her bold independence and cunning have only increased with age, much to the delight and horror of her family! Mardy is the first daughter of Soledad that the WRBI has kept for the future of our breeding program. She is very sweet and clever girl with a knack for mischief: exactly what the WRBI breeds for in a working dog. Mardy is in the process of becoming a Wildlife K-9. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her partner, Nils Pedersen.

Joni

Born: 2017 – Salla x Akela

Sex: Male

Joni is the second born son to Akela. During his “Bear Test”, Joni performed better than almost every one of the KBDs that the WRBI has produced in our 24 years. Joni will be the future of our breeding program, carrying on Akela’s foundational lines. Joni is in the process of becoming a Wildlife K-9. He lives in Florence with his partner, Carrie Hunt.

Wildlife K-9 “Hall of Fame”

Cassidy

1999 to 2015

Sex: Male

Wind River “Butch” Cassidy was Carrie Hunt’s lead dog for many years. He is the son of “Yoki” and one of the best Wildlife K-9s that the WRBI has ever produced. Cassidy was our “white glove” in that we knew that if Cassidy was interested in a scent, it was almost certainly bear.

Satchmo

2001 to 2014

Sex: Male

Satchmo was a very accomplished Wildlife K-9 with a willful spirit and great sense of humor. Satch trained many handlers over the years how to work with a high caliber dog of his nature.

Kujoki

1997 to 2012

Sex: Male

Litters:

1998: Eilu x Yoki – “Usko” “Circle” “Suomi” “Jewel” “Tuck” “Rhoka” “Granite” “Raven” “Checkers” “Fancy” “Blush” “Vladimir”

1999: Luna x Yoki – “Gracie I” “Cassidy” “Joulu” “Noki”

2001: Carmen x Yoki – “Kai” “Seita” “Kavik” Satchmo” “Brudder” “Kuma” “Mica”

2006: Grace x Yoki – “Akela” “Cash” “Atlas” “Timber” “Eagle” “Koda”

2006: Grace x Yoki – “Akela” “Cash” “Atlas” “Timber” “Eagle” “Koda”

2007: Luna x Yoki – “Freemont” “Togo” “Yoki jr.” “Echo” “Chinook” “Mara” “Kaj” “Itse” “Arrow”

Yoki was the first breeding male in our lines to come from Finland. “Smokin’ Joe Yoke” was the hottest Wildlife K-9 that Carrie Hunt had ever worked with and he taught her a lot about how to train an independent and willful KBD. His contribution to our programs is difficult to quantify given his many litters and incredible drive to save wild bears.

Eilu

1997 to 2009

Sex: Female

Litters:

1998: Eilu x Yoki – “Usko” “Circle” “Suomi” “Jewel” “Tuck” “Rhoka” “Granite” “Raven” “Checkers” “Fancy” “Blush” “Vladimir”

2004: Eilu x Blaze – “Grace” “Taiin” “Bullet” “Dainichi” “Luna” “Tansii” “Wasatch”

Eilu was the first breeding female in our lines to come from Finland. She is one of the matriarchal lines of our kennel. Eilu was big and beautiful and inspired those who met her.

Blaze

1997 to 2007

Sex: Male

Litters:

2003: Blush x Blaze – “Rico” “Shadow” “Romeo” “Cassandra” “Mishka” “Slash” “Chase” “St. Bernard” “Taz”

2004: Eilu x Blaze – “Grace” “Taiin” “Bullet” “Dainichi” “Luna” “Tansii” “Wasatch”

Blaze was one of the foundational breeding dogs in our program. He stamped all of his litters with his love of people.

sisko

1998 to 2017

Sex: Male

Sisko was Lori Homstol’s working Wildlife K-9 and life-long companion. Sisko was one of the most experienced and capable working dogs that we have had the pleasure of working with. His big attitude and personality left a deep impression on everyone that met him.

tuffy

1995 to 2008

Sex: Male

Tuffy was one of our foundational Wildlife K-9s that helped to show the world what was possible to do in working with wild bears.

Rio I

1994 to 2006

Sex: Male

Litters:

1995: Cassie x Rio I – “Fat Tail” “Fin” “Spot” “Uno” “Oso” “Sunny” ‘Mr. T” “Luna”

1995: Cassie x Rio I – “Gila” “Dolly” “Tut” “Dazzle” “Panda”

1997: Cassie x Rio I – “Cody” “Blaze” “Logan” “Carmen” “Natalia”

Rio I was one of our foundational Wildlife K-9s that helped to show the world what was possible to do in working with wild bears. He is one of the patriarchal lines in our kennel.

cassie

1993 to 2007

Sex: Female

Litters:

1995: Cassie x Rio I – “Fat Tail” “Fin” “Spot” “Uno” “Oso” “Sunny” ‘Mr. T” “Luna”

1995: Cassie x Rio I – “Gila” “Dolly” “Tut” “Dazzle” “Panda”

1997: Cassie x Rio I – “Cody” “Blaze” “Logan” “Carmen” “Natalia”

Cassie was one of our foundational Wildlife K-9s that helped to show the world what was possible to do in working with wild bears. She is one of our matriarchal lines in our kennel. It is Cassie’s face that is seen on our logo.

Hire Us

Join our cause and hire us to help with your human-wildlife conflict issues today. We offer Wildlife K-9 Teams, consulting, and training services for government agencies, industry groups, and private entities. Our motto: “Teach Your Wildlife Well”.

Donate Now

Contribute to our cause by donating to our programs. All donations will go towards continuing the important work that we do throughout North America and Japan. Your generous donations will help to keep wildlife on the landscape!