Should we be keeping bears on campus?

By Eddie Lunn | Contributor

While this is sure to be a controversial topic, it is something that I have thought about since my early days on campus. At least every weekday, my path to and from class takes me by Joy and Lady’s home, the Bear Habitat. Rarely were the bears in their home, and rarely would I even I stop and check. Still, the thought has crossed my mind: should we be keeping these bears here on campus?

The few times I have seen the bears in their habitat, something does not seem right to me. I have always had this image of bears in my head as these majestic, free-roaming creatures, as cliche as that may sound. This does not seem to be the case when it comes to Joy and Lady. All that I have seen these bears do is walk in circles or pace back and forth. The bears, as far as I have seen, exhibit behaviors contradictory to how they are described as being in the wild.

I have no doubt that the bears’ caretakers are well informed and well equipped to care for the bears. Also, given the rich history of bears on campus, I am sure that they are treated as nothing less than royalty. Bears have been on campus at Baylor since as early as 1917, making it a tradition over a century in the running.

A quick look at the university webpage dedicated to the bears and their habitat shows how well these bears are being cared for. As far as bears in captivity go, this lucky pair might have it better than any others. However, I will hold strong in my beliefs: bears, in general, should not be kept in captivity because it goes against a bear’s core characteristics.

Do I think the bears are well taken care of? Absolutely. However, I do think that by taking the bears out of their natural habitat, we are robbing them of several of their instinctual characteristics. Here is the compromise that I propose. I do not think that going and setting the bears free is the right plan of action. Since they were cubs, these bears have only known captivity and the lavish amenities that come with it. I do not believe Joy and Lady would fend for themselves very well in the wild. I think that we should enjoy the time that we still have with our beloved bears, but I think that the school should consider retiring the tradition once Joy and Lady are laid to rest. I love tradition, and live bears on a college campus is definitely a special one. I just get the feeling that maybe this 104-year tradition should come to a close.

Eddie is a sophomore business major from Nashville, Tenn.