By Tatum Mitchell | News Editor
Two American black bear cubs, Judge Indy and Judge Belle, are expected to arrive at the on-campus Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat this summer, Baylor announced Monday.
Following Judge Lady’s graduation and her expected mid-summer move to a private facility for retirement, the new cubs will have a gradual transition to the bear habitat during the summer months. Judge Indy and Judge Belle will have the same official “move-in day” as incoming freshmen on Aug. 16 and Aug. 17, according to the press release.
“We are thrilled to welcome Judge Indy and Judge Belle to the Baylor Family as we continue the proud and important mission of the Baylor Bear Habitat into its next chapter,” Baylor President Linda Livingstone said. “Just as Joy and Lady served for more than two decades as an enduring symbol of Baylor’s spirit and tradition, we look forward to Indy and Belle in residence at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, where they will receive the same world-class supervision and protection of their dedicated student caregivers, staff and veterinary personnel.”
The rescue cubs, which are cousins, were born five days apart in January in a wildlife park in Idaho. Judge Indy is the largest of her litter at 25 pounds, while Judge Belle is the smallest of hers at 21 pounds.
Baylor — the first university to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — identified the cubs through their contacts with the bear habitat’s veterinary team, an external bear consultant and other AZA accredited facilities. The cubs entered the university’s care earlier this month following a long observational period in which the veterinary team and consultant found them to be a perfect fit, the press release said.
The bear habitat team is looking into communication strategies to inform the public on when the cubs will be in their on-campus home. Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, associate director of student activities and director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, said the cubs are resilient and love people.
“It’s clear after my time with them that they will fit in perfectly with the Baylor Family,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “They are bursting with energy, so over the next few months we’ll continue to prioritize building trust with their Chamber caregivers and bonding with them along with exposing them to lots of new sights, sounds, foods and scents to best enrich their development as cubs. We cannot wait until the entire Baylor Family gets to appreciate them in person – they bring so much joy to everyone they encounter.”
As the larger and more independent cub, Judge Indy’s name serves as a reminder of tradition, tracing back to Baylor’s birthplace in Independence. Judge Belle is named after the McLane Carillon bells in Pat Neff Hall because she squawks and chirps around feeding or play time, the press release said.
The bear habitat’s student care team has grown to accommodate the cubs and aid their transition to higher levels of human contact. Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life, said the deep bond the Baylor family has with the bears is thanks to the bear habitat’s team.
“That is due to the dedicated student caregivers within the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, who are trained and professionally mentored to provide Indy and Belle with the gold standard of care and enrichment every single day without fail,” Jackson said. “At the same time, education remains a constant part of the Habitat’s mission, providing rich opportunities for our bear program leaders to interact with and educate young people about American black bears.”