A young lion is alive today thanks to the offshoot of an idea started by the late Rocky Spencer. Dr. Spencer, who died in September of 2007 while performing his duties as a biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), introduced the use of Karelian bear dogs as part of a WDFW non-lethal wildlife control project. Though initially used solely to help discourage bears from wandering back into human-occupied areas, the dogs have now been used at least twice (Okanogan County in March 2009 and in Seattle in September 2009) in what the department calls the "Hard Release" of cougars.
A Hard Release is where instead of just euthanizing the animal, the cougar is captured, given a medical evaluation, fitted with a GPS-collar and released back into the wild. The "Hard" part of the title comes from the method used in the cougar's release. At the point of discharge, a Karelian bear dog is let loose to bark aggressively at the cougar while it is still caged, then once the cougar is freed, the dog chases the cougar down the road and back into its habitat.
If, as we suspect, this non-lethal method of handling potentially dangerous wildlife which have wandered innocently into human developed areas proves to be effective, then we will have Dr. Spencer and other forward thinking members of WDFW to thank for coming up with a humane solution to a problem which has killed far too many cougars.