It’s safe to say that the majority of us are aware of the devastating Australian wildfires that ravaged the country’s wildlife and plant life between September 2019 and March 2020, with New South Wales being one of the most severely impacted regions. Sadly, these wildfires, alongside droughts and other climate-related disasters, have wreaked havoc on farmers’ livelihoods and caused millions of dollars in damages.
Sadly, the devastating Australian bushfires also had a severe impact on the wildlife, resulting in numerous animals being injured or losing their lives. Among these creatures, the koalas were the most vulnerable, with a whopping 60,000 of them losing their lives during the catastrophe. Nonetheless, many koalas were rescued by the heroic efforts of volunteers, firefighters, and one remarkable dog named Bear. This incredible canine played a crucial role in saving the lives of over 100 koalas during the Blacksummer bushfires in Australia. Allow us to introduce you to Bear, the brave dog who made a significant difference during this tragic event.
Ourpets got in touch with Bear’s owner and asked some questions about his skills. We also asked if he was trained to locate Koalas. It turns out that Bear had undergone specific training for this purpose in collaboration with detecting dogs for conservation at USC and IFAW. The training was quite challenging, requiring a lot of patience and perseverance. Dogs can be incredible partners in conservation efforts. Their keen sense of smell is invaluable in locating and gathering data on endangered species. This approach saves a lot of time and effort. And it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement for everyone involved: rescues are vital, and Bear’s success shows that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
We were curious about how the idea for Bear’s Instagram account was born. The response was simple – in this day and age, everyone is online! The detection dog team already had Instagram accounts, but after the bushfires, people showed a keen interest in Bear. Thus, Facebook became a channel to share details about their collaboration with IFAW, wildlife rescue groups, research, and daily routine. Since Bear is an exceptional dog, we asked about his character traits too!
Bear is a playful and energetic dog with a charmingly goofy and cheeky personality! Although he sometimes lacks self-confidence, on the field, all he wants to do is play and have fun. You can tell how much he loves life just by looking at his big, silly grin! His main focus is on collecting his toys and engaging in playtime. He will run around, perform quick drops, and make adorable “awooo” sounds while using his eyes to communicate that he wants to play with his toys. If he doesn’t get enough exercise, he will be bursting with energy like a Duracell bunny and let you know about it! Bear also enjoys being massaged and patted, especially on his chest during the early morning or evening.
Interestingly, Bear has a unique fondness for pizza’s scent, which makes him watch people eat it with intense curiosity. Bear became famous after he assisted in finding koalas in need of medical attention during the 2019-2020 bushfires. His heartwarming story quickly went viral, and we were curious to learn more about his owner’s experience.
Wow, it was quite challenging for us as we had never experienced anything like that before! However, there’s no denying that people always enjoy hearing about dogs with interesting tales. Even amidst the devastation caused by the bushfires, bringing a little happiness to others is definitely worth it. Bear seems like such a fun-loving pup, so we couldn’t help but wonder if his owner had any amusing stories to tell us.
During our interview, a ball was unexpectedly thrown causing Bear to charge towards one of the interviewees, knocking them off their stool. Despite the incident, Bear carried on as if nothing happened and even turned it into a game of catching leaves. He would bring the leaves to someone to throw, and each time, the leaf would shrink until there was only a small stem left which he would place on his tongue and try to give to someone, leaving a wet mark on their clothes instead. This went on for around 30 minutes, and if he ran out of leaves, he would go find more. Bear’s focus and playful nature made for an eventful interview experience.
Lastly, we couldn’t resist asking Bear’s owner what he loved most about his furry companion. Without hesitation, he replied, “His character! Sometimes he reminds me of Sid from Ice Age – a bit slow on the uptake. But then he surprises you with his intelligence and focus. One of his managers even nicknamed him Dobby White Walker, after the elf from Harry Potter and the eerie eyes of the White Walkers from Game of Thrones!”
Bear is a remarkable dog in many ways. He is the only canine in all of Australia trained to locate Koalas by detecting their fur and feces. This unique ability has earned him much recognition, including the Special Recognition Award from the International Foundation for Animal Welfare in the UK. And let’s not forget his gold medal, a well-deserved honor for the outstanding actions of this six-year-old Australian koolie.
Bear gets to sport adorable shoes that keep his paws safe as he explores the fire-ravaged regions. Thanks to his dedicated efforts, many koalas were rescued, and he was rewarded with more cuddles and playtime. You can see Bear in action in the PBS video below.