DOCS: There’s A Polar Bear In My Pool!


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.
Aww… good 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, they still need to be cared for. Nice chicken,
beef and pork rib dinner. COMM: And his commitment to looking after
all of these creatures, comes from a desire to educate and inspire others. CARL BOVARD: My goal now is to have as many
visitors come out here as we can. I feel that if we have one guest that comes out here,
gets a passion for these animals and goes out and because conservationist, you know,
I think we have done our job. COMM: With all of the animals fed, it’s
time for Carl and the two bear cubs to cool off. And while honey bear has a drink from
the paddling pool, Bruiser joins Carl for a refreshing swim. CARL BOVARD: There’s my good boy. Swim to
me Bruiser bear. COMM: Honey bear is next to try the pool but
doesn’t seem as keen as Bruiser. And Honey bear blocking the stairs is no obstacle to
Bruiser getting back in. And this time Bruiser isn’t just swimming, he’s also trying
a spot of surfing. CARL BOVARD: He’s a surfing bear. Yeah!
Surfing bear. COMM: While it’s one thing swimming with
a baby bear, back in Abbotsford, Mark Dumas is preparing to venture into his pool with
something much bigger. MARK DUMAS: I am going to go swim with Agee.
It guess it’s because I am partially crazy. It’s challenging because you always have
to be aware of the fact that she’s a polar bear and this is her element and I’m a human
and it’s not really my element. MARK DUMAS: I don’t know anyone that swims
with a polar bear, an adult polar bear. It’s one thing to swim with them when they’re
babies. It’s totally different to start swimming with them when they’re adults. COMM: Mark has been swimming with Agee for
sixteen years but he is still understandably cautious about being in the pool with a bear
that is four times his weight. MARK DUMAS: Polar bears in the wild are different
because they’re solitary animals. A mother would have babies that she would teach to
swim and would swim with them until she sends them away when they are two years old or a year and three quarters. Agee wouldn’t in the wild be swimming with a male polar bear. COMM: Because Mark introduced Agee to the
water when she was a cub and taught her to swim, he enjoys the unique privilege of being
the only man in the world who can swim safely with an adult polar bear. MARK DUMAS: If someone else tried to swim
with her, she would probably hurt them, to the point where they’d either be visiting
the hospital, or they’d be visiting the morgue. MARK DUMAS: Agee could accidently drown me,
they can hold their breath for like five minutes. I can’t do that. MARK DUMAS: We’re here together. MARK DUMAS: Oh no you don’t, you’re not pulling me, I’m busy. COMM: Agee likes swimming with Mark so much
that the hardest thing is keeping her in a good mood when the session is over. After all
polar bears can swim for up to 100 miles without resting. So, while Mark may be tired, Agee
is just getting started. To end things on a positive note, while Mark prepares to leave,
Dawn distracts Agee with some food. MARK: Working with any wild animal there’s a certain
degree of risk. I don’t find there’s any danger for me I mean, I might get something
like when she steps on my leg or she steps on my knee and all of a sudden tremendous pain
on my back is tweaked by her. Or in the snow she gets real frisky, you can catch a claw
in the face and end up bleeding from it. But in terms of danger for myself I don’t feel
there’s a lot of danger. But then again I do my homework, so I am aware of what’s
happening. For the normal person I wouldn’t suggest they go out and try to spend time with a
polar bear. MARK: She’s like one of my children. I enjoy
her, I love her dearly. I care about her well being…mentally and physically. What more
can I say?

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