Bearadise Ranch educates on bears

Read the original article by David Figura at syracuse.com here.

The Bears of Bearadise Ranch show at the NYS Fair gives viewers a look at bears that are friendly, cuddly and eager to please their owners.

One climbs a ladder and pops a balloon hanging from the ceiling of the tented area; another gets on her hind feet and walks with a ball and stuffs it in a small, kiddie basketball hoop — and finally one climbs a ladder and unfurls an American flag.

They allow themselves to be hugged and petted. One licked a woman’s face.

Bambi, a Syrian brown bear, climbs a ladder to pop a balloon at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch show at the 2019 NYS Fair
Bambi, a Syrian brown bear, climbs a ladder to pop a balloon at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch show at the 2019 NYS Fair

Show emcee Monica Welde, with assistance from her daughter, Jenny, puts on the nearly hour-long, free show. It’s located at Times Square near the northeast corner of the Midway. Shows run every day at 1, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Welde cautions that “We need to respect bears. They are wild animals and some can be aggressive in the wild. These bears (in the show) were raised with human care. We respect them for what they are, and don’t forget they’re a bear first. But they have a relationship, a rapport with us.”

The bears in the show seen by this reporter – one Syrian bear, one North American brown bear and two European brown bears – are all from Bearadise Ranch in Myakka City, Fla. The show area is contained underneath a tent roof, with heavy fish netting surrounding the area, reinforced with three strands of metal wire.

Lucy, an American brown bear, carries a basketball which she then stuffed into small, kid-sized basketball hoop at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch show at the 2019 NYS Fair
Lucy, an American brown bear, carries a basketball which she then stuffed into small, kid-sized basketball hoop at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch show at the 2019 NYS Fair

The Ranch is home to 12 bears of various types. Established in 1926, the Ranch’s mission is to “to educate and generate public awareness for habitat preservation and conservation for all bear species.”

Bears from the ranch in the past have been used in Walt Disney movies and TV shows, Welde said. The bears were all either raised by Welde and her husband, Johnny, (who passed away several years ago), or were adopted over the years.

Jenny Welde-Thomas rubs the back of Andy, a European brown bear, at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch show at the 2019 NYS Fair.
Jenny Welde-Thomas rubs the back of Andy, a European brown bear, at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch show at the 2019 NYS Fair.

Welde said she goes our tour for 6 to 8 weeks each summer to raise money for the Ranch. This is her first time at the New York State Fair, she said.

She said the six bears she brought along for the show have had no problems adapting to the fair’s hot, humid weather.

“They’re from Florida they’re acclimated, believe me. We have black bears native to our state,” she said. “If it was too hot they wouldn’t live there.”

She added her bears at the fair are “comfortable. They have water they swim in to cool off, and have air-conditioned quarters.

In addition to the constant snacks (peanut butter-flavored dog biscuits; raisins and Fig Newton cookies), the animals, which are omninores are also fed a variety of healthy foods consisting of dog food, assorted fruits and vegetables and “a special zoo diet for bears.”

Daniel Palermo, Geneva, feeds Carrol, a European brown bear, a peanut-flavored, dog biscuit at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch .
Daniel Palermo, Geneva, feeds Carrol, a European brown bear, a peanut-flavored, dog biscuit at the Bears of Bearadise Ranch . 

At the conclusion of the show, several members of the audience were allowed a picture-taking opportunity to get safely close to feed a bear. They did it by holding a stick with a clothes pin holding a dog biscuit at the end.

It helped that the biscuit was also coated with honey. Read more about Bearadise Ranch.

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