Cubs up close: Indy, Belle adjust well, ‘climbing and thriving’ on campus

LTVN’s George Schroeder brings you inside the bear habitat. Kenneth Prabhakar | Photo Editor.

By Caleb Wheeler | Staff Writer, George Schroeder | LTVN Executive Producer

Judge Indy and Judge Belle have been on campus for over a month, and they are taking well to Baylor while showing off their distinct personalities.

Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, associate director of Student Activities, said Indy and Belle use the pool much more than their predecessors did, and large logs were added to the habitat because the cubs love to climb.

“They have vibrant personalities,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “They are particularly curious and destructive, and they love having fun. They love wrestling with each other. They love exploring.”

Farquhar-Caddell said the cubs’ unique personalities are reflected in how much attention they require.

“[Judge Indy] doesn’t require as much human attention. She loves just doing her own thing, relaxing,” Leawood sophomore Nick Jaworski, member of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, said. “But Judge Belle can definitely be a lot more fun at times.”

Indy and Belle are in far better health than they would likely be if they were in the wild, Farquhar-Caddell said. Getting both cubs into a safe and stable environment was the best thing that could have happened for them, he said.

“Black bears out in the field or in the wild have a mortality rate of 50%, so we’re really grateful that we got to take both of them and make sure they both survive and thrive under our care,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “Being a bear at Baylor is like winning the lottery.”

The cubs are showing signs of good health at eight months old. Farquhar-Caddell said they are in the best possible condition right now and will continue to grow.

“Indy and Belle are thriving health-wise,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “They are right on target weight, which is the mid-80 pounds right now. They are doing everything a cub should do. They’re exploring, and they’re climbing. They’re digging. They’re swimming. They’re just hitting all their health targets perfectly.”

  • Indy waits for a treat. Kenneth Prabhakar | Photo Editor

The cubs will be easier to differentiate than Judge Lady and Judge Joy were, since Indy is expected to be significantly bigger than Belle. The exact size of the new bears cannot be predicted. However, Farquhar-Caddell said it is likely Belle will be about 240 pounds — average for an adult black bear — while Indy is expected to be closer to 400 pounds but still healthy.

“We have hundreds, thousands of people each day walk to and from class, come up [Interstate] 35,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “We had people this weekend that drove four or five hours to see the bear cubs. And so, we’re having people really all over the nation coming into and kind of cluing into Indy and Belle.”

People love the cubs, and the cubs feel the same way about their visitors. Farquhar-Caddell said the new bears love the attention.

“They love the people,” Farquhar-Caddell said. “They love the attention, especially Belle. She’s kind of a cheeseball for attention, and so anytime there’s new faces, they love seeing that. They love showing off for the crowd. They’re really thriving off of that human visibility.”

Farquhar-Caddell said people often think of the cubs as being like dogs due to their demeanors and attitudes. They play tug-of-war with their toys or sticks, and they paw at each other.

“Lots of people think they can just cuddle them like dogs, but they are still bear cubs,” Farqhuhar-Caddell said. “Anything is a toy right now. They love exploring, and they love just trying out new things.”

Jaworski said the cubs are related, but not as closely as many think.

“They are technically cousins, but everyone here calls them sisters because of how much they’ve connected to each other,” Jaworski said. “The only time that some people might say they’ve become aggressive is just during playful bouts that might go a little too far, which, as you can imagine if you’ve had a sibling, one of you pushes the other too hard and they whack you back.”

George Schroeder is a senior at Baylor University majoring in journalism. Currently the only student on his 4th year with the Lariat, he is the executive producer for Lariat TV News, he has worked as the managing editor, a broadcast reporter and an anchor for the program. In 2022 he was named the Baylor Department of Student Media’s “Broadcaster of the Year” and the inaugural winner of the Rick Bradfield Award for Breaking News Coverage. During his time with the Lariat, he has served as a member of the Editorial Board, a sportswriter and an opinion writer. He is a contracted cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps and will commission as an officer into the United States Air Force after graduation in 2024.