Baylor’s bears celebrate 18th, 19th birthdays

President Linda Livingstone and the first gent greeted students who were waiting in line Saturday to wish Lady and Joy a happy birthday. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Journalist

By Matthew Muir | Staff Writer

Baylor celebrated the birthday of Lady and Joy, its two live mascots, Saturday at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat. The bears turned 18 and 19 years old, respectively.

The sister bears were born at the West Cost Game Park in Bandon, Ore. Each came to Baylor as a 4-month-old cub and have spent nearly all their lives at the university.

The bears are cared for by students from the Baylor Chamber of Commerce through the Bear Program. With the bears now being the same age as many of Baylor’s freshmen, including Katy senior Audrey Chisum, a lead trainer with the Bear Program, said she likes to imagine how the bears would celebrate if they were human.

“I have some narrative in my head of what they would be like at 18 and 19 and how they would be celebrating that,” Chisum said. “Lady would definitely be the bear who goes and buys like $100 worth of scratch-off tickets and wins nothing, and I feel like Joy would be the one who definitely fills out their voter registration the day they turn 18. I think they would celebrate a little bit differently but still surrounded by love.”

In reality, the late teens are considered old for bears. However, Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, the Bear Program’s faculty sponsor, said Baylor’s bears can look forward to more years ahead of them.

“It’s hard to tell the exact equivalent, but we like to say the bears are in their mid-to late 60s,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “If they’re in the field they live to their late teens, if they’re in long-term human care they can live to their early 20s, mid 20s.”

Lady and Joy are the current torch-bearers in a long line of on-campus mascots, with the first bears being welcomed to campus in 1917. The Chamber of Commerce took over caretaking responsibilities in 1940, leading to the emergence of the Bear Program. Chisum said being part of this tradition is special to her.

“Baylor gives us a really unique tradition of having students from all different backgrounds, all different ages, all different majors taking care of the two best bears in the world,” Chisum said. “It’s definitely something special to me and I think it’s a special calling home symbol for all of our alumni.”

Hideaway junior Corban Sorrells, another lead trainer, said having bears on campus makes Baylor unique among universities.

“It’s really special to have live bear mascots on campus because they are exotic animals. If you look at every other major institution and university, they’ll have livestock as their animals, they’ll have birds or they’ll have domestic animals like dogs and cats,” Sorrells said. “For over 103 years we’ve had bears on campus every single day and so I think that’s pretty special. You can’t really experience that anywhere else.”

The bears proved to be a huge draw Saturday. The area around the enclosure was packed with people at Saturday’s celebration. Orange County, Calif, freshman Jack Threshie said he was surprised by the turnout.

“I didn’t expect it to be this big,” Threshie said. “I haven’t seen [the bears] do the sic ‘em… that’s why I came.”

In addition to caring for the bears, Baylor’s Bear Program promotes conservation efforts aimed at protecting black bears like Joy and Lady. Both Sorells and Chisum said the bears are “ambassadors for their species,” and Sorells said Baylor is uniquely positioned to make a difference in conservation efforts.

“We are uniquely positioned at a private institution to get to have these animals and teach about God’s creation and the way that we’re supposed to steward that,” Sorells said. “And I think that’s something that we try to do every day.”