Thousands of black bears roam Japan’s forests, sometimes causing problems for humans and for themselves. That’s where a group of highly trained Karelian Bear Dogs comes in. Part of the Picchio Wildlife Research Center’s bear conservation team, they’re responsible for the safe relocation and redirection of dozens of burly bruins each year. Plus, they’re super-charming!

Although a stressed Japanese black bear more than twice his weight and size was pounding on and clawing at the metal container, Nanuq, a Karelian Bear Dog (KBD), stood calmly. His glance moved between the bear trap and the face of his handler, Gen Oshima.

Oshima squatted next to Nanuq at one end of the barrel trap that served as a temporary cage, which we had carried to the edge of a narrow dirt road in the high mountains of Karuizawa, Nagano, Japan. It was a typical mid-summer work day for members of the…

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