Airedales. Everyone in Wyoming worried about grizzly bear confrontations should buy an Airedale.
That is the recommendation of Greg Hertel, who has a decade of experience observing the largest of the terrier breeds scare away the state’s scariest predator.
“It’s a personal protection and a property protection,” Hertel said.
Hertel, who lives on the South Fork near Valley School, was a participant in last week’s Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee session at the Holiday Inn soliciting ideas to reduce human-bear encounters statewide.
Members of the public and representatives from of agencies such as Game and Fish, the Shoshone National Forest, Yellowstone National Park and others, brainstormed wide-ranging suggestions for the subcommittee to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
Many of the comments put forth stressed improving various types of communication and education, much of which tracks what Dusty Lasseter, the Game and Fish Bear Wise Coordinator already does in his numerous out-reach sessions with groups that provide safety tips.
Some proposals included giving ranch managers more authority to take immediate action when bears prey on livestock, provide flexible compensation rates for animals killed by bears, place more emphasis on adverse conditioning of bears so they will be less likely to attack humans or animals, increase efforts to communicate what has worked in one place or for one group to other people, and put more effort into managing carcasses so they will not be as prevalent on the landscape in attracting bears.
Also, some pushed for devoting more effort to spreading information on social media than has been done, possibly involving sanitation departments in working with bear-proof trash containers, making sure citizens understand it “is not just musical bears” when a problem bear is removed from temptation in one place and relocated to another part of the state.
There were also ideas advanced that clearly would cost money, but do not readily have funding sources.
Such discussion points included providing incentives or rewards to property owners who go the extra mile to invest in property or livestock barriers such as putting up electric fencing or bear proofing garbage bins.
“We’re still not sure where the money would be coming from, of course,” said Kristi Salzmann, a public information specialist for the Shoshone National Forest, speaking for one small group.
Her group talked about the creation of a bear training academy, where citizens could exchange success stories going beyond what government officials know and also embrace new possible partners in bear safety programs such as “a new (non-governmental organization) or even the Draper (Museum of Natural History).”
YES Committee chair Tricia O’Connor praised the progress made in discussions, but said the next step is to sort through the suggestions and highlight some.
“Obviously we can’t do all of that stuff,” she said.
Her group would then forward recommendations to the IGBC.
Hertel said no one should underestimate the value of airedales.
Time and again he has seen his 80-pound dog frighten away bears with barks, chase them and run point for his daughter while hiking.
The dog smells the larger beasts and does not hesitate to confront them.
“He’s an alert,” Hertel said. “A bear has never turned him around. He keeps them out of camp at night. He will get in there and bite them. (Airedales) have that aggressiveness that will make it a bad experience for (bears).”