By: WDFW Officer Bruce Richards (retired) and WDFW bear/cougar specialist Rich Beausoleil (with the wildlife division of WDFW).
In 2007 my wife and I were in a serving line at Washington State Wildlife Officer Mack Peterson’s retirement dinner, when I was approached by a captain from the east-side of our state, who burst out; “Rocky was just killed!” My first reaction was, “Wow! That was an awkward joke!” As it turned out, it was no joke. At that moment I learned Rocky Spencer, a longtime friend and working partner of mine, had been killed when he had walked into a helicopter rotor blade while trying to untangle two mountain sheep he had just net-gunned earlier that day. Little did I know, at that moment, my career would take a bit of a turn for the next eight years.
I was an enforcement officer, Rocky was a biologist, but together we had spent countless hours working together on bear and cougar issues in King County (which includes Seattle). Anyone who has pursued bear or cougar quickly realizes that good dogs are essential to a successful capture. Having no state owned dogs at the time, I often used my own yellow lab for tracking tranquilized animals, much to the chagrin of those “above” me. Rocky wasn’t satisfied with “making due” and in his quest for the perfect bear and cougar dog, Rocky eventually heard about Karelian Bear Dogs. In 2003, after months of research and the pursuit of funding, Rocky finally picked up a Karelian Bear Dog named Mishka. Mishka came from the Wind River Bear Institute in Florence, Montana.