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  • COMM: The polar bear is the largest land based predator on earth. Mark Dumas, may be the

  • only person in the world who can get this close to one and survive.

  • MARK: Good girl. Oh! What a good girl you are.

  • COMM: And while Mark might be able to keep up on land, will he be as successful in the

  • water, where polar bears are equally in their element?

  • MARK: I don't know anyone that swims with an adult polar bear. It's one thing

  • to swim with them when they're a baby. It's totally different to swim with them when they're adults.

  • COMM: Mark isn't alone to having such a close bond with bears.

  • Mark: Come up.

  • COMM: And as we explore these complex relationships, we'll discover that living with such powerful

  • animals can be unpredictable,

  • COMM: surprising,

  • MARK: She's sucking on my fingers. She enjoys sucking on my fingers.

  • COMM: occasionally surreal,

  • MARK: There you go. That tongue goes anywhere, doesn't it?

  • COMM: And always charged with potential danger.

  • MARK: I didn't touch you.

  • COMM: In Abbotsford, Canada, Mark and Dawn Dumas are starting their day and it's feeding time.

  • MARK: Good morning! So this is Agee's treat for this morning. She just gets leftover food

  • from whatever we had for dinner.

  • WOMAN: Greek rice.

  • MARK: Well there you go. It's Greek rice. I am gonna go in right now with Agee. I am

  • gonna give her a treats and then I'll clean her cage and this is our quiet time together

  • where we just kinda hang out and it's always to find out what kind of mood she's in this

  • day and how we progress.

  • Hi! She's gonna go over and check everyone out.

  • COMM: This is Agee. A fully grown, sixteen year old polar bear.

  • COMM: The couple have raised Agee since she was a tiny cub and because of this life long

  • bond, Mark can get closer to a polar bear than anyone else in the world.

  • MARK: I got you, Ahh… I got your great belly. This belly rub. Now, I'm gonna see if I

  • can pluck off without her getting too upset, some of her old hair. Part of the contact

  • is, this way you get to find out that she has nothing growing on her and her weight's

  • good, in fact she's little on the heavy side.

  • COMM: As you might expect given the number of years they've been together. Mark's

  • day to day relationship with the bear is complicated.

  • MARK: Well I am her companion, her disciplinarian, her trainer. I think sometimes she thinks

  • she's my mistress. She gets very jealous of me when I am talking with other people.

  • If I go away for, any length of time when I come back, she's the jealous girl, she'll

  • come over, say hello and then walk away and blow me off.

  • COMM: But today at least, Agee seems pretty affectionate. And in the mood for a bit of

  • rough and tumble.

  • MARK: Oh yeah! Watch this girl. I am gonna switch it up alright. I am gonna take you down.

  • MARK: I'm gonna have a rest now.

  • COMM: Mark's neighbors seem to take having a polar bear next door in their stride.

  • ROB WARNER: Every morning at seven thirty in the morning, me and my wife sit there and

  • watch Agee swim and to be able to sit back in your porch with a cup of tea and watch

  • a polar bear in your backyard is the most amazing thing. I love it.

  • COMM: Mark trains animals that appear in the movies and on television and it was through

  • work that he first came to get Agee.

  • MARK: 1994, Fraser Heston; director, producer and son of Charlton Heston came to us and

  • asked us if we could locate a polar bear cub for a movie he wanted to do. We called all

  • over the world and found a pregnant female at a zoo in Sweden - the Kolmården zoo.

  • And we purchased her and raised her working for the film. First three months that we had her

  • she lived in our basement. She used to like to get behind the washer, washer and dryer

  • and sleep back there. She's not really domesticated; she's still a wild animal. We just spent

  • a tremendous amount of time with her, with raising her and bottle feeding her. Got just inside of

  • her head, understood her and worked it that way.

  • COMM: Agee is now far too big for a bottle and has quite an appetite.

  • MARK: She eats around twelve to fifteen pounds a day in her normal diet but when she's

  • working she can even consume a lot more than that. She's an omnivore even though she

  • basically eats, in the wild they eat just meats. They'll graze in the summer. She

  • only eats seal, and I can't give her seal. I mean first of all people would be very objectionable.

  • It's a hard source of meat to get. So, she's adapted. Favorite food is I'd say salmon.

  • She loves pastas, she does like pizza. She really does, she likes her doughnuts. And

  • so she doesn't really have one favorite food but her all time working food is salmon.

  • COMM: And food also plays an important part in her training.

  • MARK: You don't really use food as the cue you give her a command or ask her to do a

  • behavior and then you reward her with the food.

  • MARK: Stay.

  • MARK: You always want to make it a positive experience and you want her to enjoy it.

  • MARK: Stay. Good girl. Oh! What a good girl you are. Yes!

  • MARK: If you have an animal that doesn't wanna be there, you can see the fact it doesn't

  • wanna be there and also you have a chance of having an accident happen. She enjoys working,

  • she enjoys going to the set and actually doing things. She has fun doing it.

  • MARK: Smile, big big big big. Good girl.

  • COMM: But despite Agee's willingness to respond to Mark's commands, he's always

  • aware that she is a wild animal who might change her mind at any time.

  • MARK: When we are looking at her moods, we look at her body posture, how relaxed her

  • body is but the most important thing for her is her eye. That is the key thing. Her eye

  • will go bad first before her body starts to react and it's really hard to read a bear's

  • eyes. You just have to have years of experience of being around them to understand that.

  • MARK: I didn't touch you and you jerked.

  • COMM: It seems that Agee has decided that training is over for the day.

  • COMM: If one bear seems quite a handful, over in Florida this family have thirteen in

  • their backyard.

  • MARK: Here comes trouble.

  • COMM: For almost a century the Welde family have owned, trained and worked with bears.

  • JOHNNY: My grandfather started in 1926 in Norway. He came to this country in the forties

  • and then in the late fifties and sixties did a lot of TV shows and movies.

  • JOHNNY WELDE: A talent scout saw me leading this bear around at three years old and he said

  • if that bear can work with a little boy like that, then he can work in Hollywood.

  • JOHNNY WELDE: I see them more like family. I mean I was raised with the bears in a way.

  • MONICA WELDE: My husband and I have been married thirty three years and the bears were a part of

  • the package. So, I don't know who I fell in love with first, the bears or my husband.

  • We do everything we can to make them happy and give them a proper home.

  • COMM: And Johnny and Monica's son Johnny Welde IV is following in his parents' footsteps.

  • JOHNNY WELDE IV: These guys are my family and I don't know how else to put it. I interact

  • with them every day, play together, feed them, clean them, bathe them, brush them, do everything

  • with these guys.

  • COMM: Their thirteen brown bears range in age from three to twenty one years old and

  • are from three subspecies - European, Syrian and North American. Also known as the grizzly

  • bear.

  • MONICA: These are still wild animals and we respect them for that. We build a relationship

  • with our bears based on mutual love and respect. They know if you have any fear, they can sense

  • that. These are extremely intelligent but powerful animals.

  • COMM: The bears demonstrate this intelligence and power in the shows they perform for

  • visitors at the Welde's Bearadise Ranch.

  • WOMAN: And a sloppy kiss for the trainer. Awwgood job. Isn't he gorgeous?

  • MONICA WELDE: One bear likes to do one behavior and one likes to do another. When they are

  • small and young, my husband plays with them and feels them out to see what they like to do and

  • develops their personalities because all bears are different like people. So, it's all

  • based on what they like to do 'cause that's very important.

  • WOMAN: Wave to the boys and girls. Give them a bear wave. There you go. Good job.

  • COMM: The Welde's have faced criticism over the years but are proud of the way they treat

  • their bears.

  • MONICA WELDE: We do not believe that it's cruel to keep these animals in captivity.

  • I know 13 bears that won't be somebody's rug.

  • WOMAN: Let's give him a big round of applause. Good boy.

  • MONICA WELDE: Every job we do with them, the money goes to them to make their habitat better,

  • to build our facility bigger and better for them. Their wild counterparts don't have

  • it too easy. Unfortunately, all species of bears are threatened and endangered; I like

  • to bring awareness to people about that. Hopefully we can use our facility as an educational

  • facility. Awareness is education.

  • COMM: While these bears are happy around this family. Caution is still advised when dealing

  • with the animals in the wild.

  • MONICA WELDE: Bears can be dangerous animals. The relationship we have with our bears is

  • something that's built up over years of living with them; 365, 24/7. They thrive on the contact

  • and the interaction every day.

  • COMM: And some of that interaction is not what you might expect.

  • MARK: She's sucking on my fingers. She enjoys sucking on my fingers. Here comes Andy. Wanna

  • suckle too? If I didn't know better, I would be intimidated because they could take your

  • finger off any second. I know which bears to do it with and which one's not to.

  • They have a very soft tongue like a dog. We want them enjoy their life as much as we

  • enjoy ours. And that's why we do what we do with them.

  • MONICA WELDE: So we got happy bears right here. We want happy bears.

  • COMM: Back in Abbotsford, Canada, Mark and Dawn Dumas might not have thirteen bears to

  • look after but as well as Agee the polar bear, they do have a new, young animal actor in

  • training called Billy.

  • DAWN: Good bear.

  • MARK: Good boy.

  • MARK: We got Billy when he was six months old and he was a nice socialized bear already.

  • So, it was really fun to have him around as a cub.

  • DAWN: Yeah. Slobber, slobber, slobber.

  • MARK: Billy was born in Ontario at Northwood's Animal Conservatory which is a private zoo.

  • Billy is a year and four month old grizzly bear and he weighs right now 250 to 300lbs

  • and when he stands up, he stands up to my shoulders which is not quite five feet, 4'8

  • or 4'9.

  • MARK: I got him again, I got him. I got him in the waist.

  • MARK: Billy usually wakes when the sun comes up. So, anywhere from five to six, but I let

  • him out of his cage and let him play and have to give him his breakfast around seven in

  • the morning and then after he's eaten and I've done other chores, I come back.

  • It's like fifteen minutes training intervals because his mind is young and he won't absorb

  • it. So, you do short intervals and he works much better that way. We don't do it in

  • hours and hours unless you are just hanging out and playing with them.

  • MARK: Here Billy.

  • DAWN: It's okay honey.

  • MARK: Good boy.

  • COMM: Part of Billy's daily routine is being taught the skills that he'll need to succeed

  • on the big screen.

  • MARK: On your side. On your side. Good side. Oh did you see what a good bear. What a good

  • boy! Yeah.

  • COMM: He's taking to some things better than others.

  • MARK: Come. C'mon let's go. C'mon bill. Okay.

  • COMM: And being so young it's not unusual for him to throw the occasional temper tantrum.

  • MARK: That's good. Billy come.

  • COMM: And Mark has to know when enough is enough.

  • MARK: Yeah. Forget it, I'll walk away from you. Yeah. I'll walk away.

  • MARK: Let's go. C'mon Billy.

  • COMM: For Billy to be able to work around film crews, he needs to get used to the

  • sights and sounds of everyday modern life. So, today they are taking him out for a drink.

  • MARK: C'mon. Billy, let's go.

  • DAWN: Let's go.

  • MARK: Here. Good boy.

  • MARK: It's important for Billy to come out and explore new places. So, what we did is

  • came to the Rendezvous Pub in Langley, brought him in and he gets to sniff around, he smells new

  • things, he gets to see everything that's different.

  • MARK: C'mon, c'mon.

  • MARK: Most people are in awe. When they see the bear, they haven't ever seen a grizzly

  • close up and walking down the street or coming into a pub. Some people are afraid but they're

  • naturally, they're people that are afraid of animals to begin with.

  • WOMAN: When I saw Billy walk in, I was like oh my goodness! What is he gonna drink first?

  • You know what is he gonna do? But he was great. He was awesome. He was probably more

  • well behaved than most of the patrons that come in here!

  • MARK: Good Billy. Yeah. Thank you. Okay, here you go.

  • WOMAN: A little licky though, a little kiss and a little bit too much leg for some of the

  • girls but otherwise he was awesome.

  • MARK: Good boy. Yeah. Is that good stuff? Oh Yes. Yes. That's a good bear.

  • DAWN: Thank you very much.

  • MARK: Yeah. That tongue goes anywhere doesn't it?

  • WOMAN: Well, when he first came in I didn't feel any fear. I was a little bit uneasy but

  • not, not fearful. I think he was gonna do his own thing, mind his own business, he ended

  • up giving me a couple of licks which is fine.

  • COMM: But being a bear and a minor Billy's drinks are strictly non alcoholic.

  • DAWN: Yes, because we don't want a drunk bear. That would be quite entertaining.

  • BILL ZERVAS: He was really good, one of our better customers. He doesn't know how to

  • tip yet but still a pretty good customer.

  • COMM: After drinks, it's through to the games room.

  • MARK: I really enjoy taking Billy to new places and just having him out about and watching

  • him learn and soak things in and you know, it takes him a little while to get used to things.

  • MARK: Here Billy. Here you go. Good boy. Oh what a nice shot hon. Good boy Billy.

  • DAWN: Yeah. Number seven, let's put you in the corner part in there. Almost.

  • COMM: With his thirst and his curiosity satisfied, it's time for this grizzly to hit the road

  • again.

  • MARK: Billy let's go. Let's go. C'mon.

  • COMM: Another man, who knows all about looking after wild animals of all ages, is Carl Bovard.

  • He owns and runs Single Vision, a non profit animal sanctuary which is based in his back

  • garden in Melrose, Florida.

  • CARL BOVARD: Hey Bruiser bear.

  • COMM: The youngest of his charges are his two bears, Honey bear and Bruiser bear.

  • CARL BOVARD: One of them is a Florida black bear and the other one is a Syrian brown bear.

  • I've had them for about four months now. I got them when they were eight weeks old. Bottle

  • fed first thing in the morning. So, each bear will take about six or seven bottles right

  • after another. Oh! It's bottle time. They're four months

  • old, they're still on a formula. This is a formula specifically designed for them;

  • it's 50% fat, 30 % protein. Hasn't been inexpensive feeding these bears. In the four

  • months I've gone through over $1400 worth of formula but that's what makes them grow up so fast

  • and stay healthy. They are starting on a diet of fruits and vegetables and things like that

  • but they still love their bottle and we actually like to keep them on the bottle as long as

  • we can because this really enforces the bond that we are building with them throughout

  • their lifetime. We are like mamma. Hey honey bear! Wassup! They go through the bottles quick.

  • People think its fun feeding baby bears, it's not that easy. You'll take some scratches. Once

  • he's done with the bottle, I just give him my arm, he just likes to suckle. Oh. Aye.

  • Say hi. He lives up to his name. This is the Bruiser bear!

  • COMM: But it's not just two small bears on bottles that Carl has to feed. Every day

  • he also has to attend to his six tigers and two lions. As well as assorted cougars, bobcats

  • and alligators.

  • CARL BOVARD: I love getting up early in the morning and working all day and working late

  • into the night. If I'm sick and I don't feel good, doesn't matter to these animals,