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January 27th, 2016 ~ Vol. 85 No. 4
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Saying goodbye to an old friend, Kuma laid to rest
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Ezra Black Photo
District officer John Clarke pauses to honour his longtime friend and partner.
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
Kuma the Karelian Bear Dog, the last of the remaining member of Alberta Fish and Wildlife’s first pair of bear management dogs, was honoured during a moving ceremony last week.

Crowsnest Pass Fire/Rescue member Daryl Johnson delivered Kuma’s eulogy in front of his handler, district officer John Clarke and about 30 mourners at Elks Hall in Blairmore.

“Kuma’s life was never boring and as a result, neither was John’s.” said Johnson. “I will miss seeing Kuma stretched out John’s office floor always ready for a pat on the head or a scratch of his belly. Kuma and John were always on guard to keep our community safe and also to keep our local wildlife safe. We will always remember our four-legged friend, a gentle giant, a dog who loved his partner and loved his work.”

Johnson described the bond between Kuma and Clarke as a special one where each member of the team has been through thick and thin and trusted each other completely.
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Johnson said there was no greater thrill for Kuma than to receive the command ‘Get the bear!’ Kuma excelled at tracking and treeing bears. He was featured in numerous documentarians and media outlets including the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

Carrie Hunt, director and founder of the Montana based Wind River Bear Institute, attended the funeral. It has been 21 years since Hunt founded the organization that produced Kuma and his brother Mica. She described the Karelian Bear Dog Program and how Kuma and Clarke had affected it.

“There have been a handful of men, women and dogs who have really carried this program and at the front of them is Kuma and John,” said Hunt. “I matched this man to this dog and they took it from there.”

Kuma passed away on Jan. 6 at the age of fifteen. He is survived by his younger sister Koda who continues doing bear management work in the Pass.
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January 27th ~ Vol. 85 No. 4
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