Florida Family Shares Their Home With 14 Bears
A daring mother and son duo have hand-raised 14 bears in their back garden. In the heart of Bearadise Ranch, Florida, Monica Welde and her son, Johnny IV, spend their days rolling around with bears that weigh up to 1,000lbs.
The Welde family have looked after grizzly bears, black bears and polar bears for the last 91 years – using their license to provide for those in need of a home. But the family tradition came under threat last year when Monica’s husband, Johnny III, died of a heart attack just after he turned 60. But with the help of her son, a devastated Monica has put her loss to one side so she can concentrate on continuing the family legacy and caring for their beloved pet bears.
It was Johnny III’s grandfather who introduced the giants to the Welde family in 1946. They have been training the bears for appearances in movies and TV shows. The youngest Johnny in the family was introduced to the potentially dangerous animals when he was only three and has always seen them as part of his family.
“Here at Bearadise Ranch our bears have natural habitats to come out and enjoy.” Monica says. “And our daily interaction with the bears is communication, loving, petting. They thrive on physical contact. That’s the greatest form of enrichment for the bears – the relationship we share with them which is based on mutual love and respect.”
Still, this dynamic duo admits they have a few scars from their interaction with the bears, but they say it is only natural when you deal with such powerful animals. They might not be your run-of-the-mill pet, but when you learn to read their signals, everyone can be a good friend with a wild animal.