New Bear Mascot 'Lady' Introduced To Campus
It might be just a coincidence that Baylor bear trainer Adam Ylitalo is a chemistry major. The Longview senior spends quite a bit of his time these days mixing bottles of formula for Baylor's new bear mascot, Lady.
Named in honor of Baylor First Lady Sue Sloan, the 5-month-old North American Black Bear takes three to four bottles of a special formula about four times a day. In a few weeks, Ylitalo will add a bear chow mush to Lady's diet, which will have the 15-pound, cinnamon-colored bear at her expected weight of 40 pounds by the end of summer.
"In a year, she will weigh about 150 pounds, which is where Joy is right now," Ylitalo said. Joy, named after former Baylor First Lady Joy Reynolds, is Baylor's 17-month-old mascot and Lady's older sister.
Lady was born in January at the same private Oregon ranch as her older sister, who was born Jan. 27, 2001. California professional bear trainer Scott Handley, who has worked with Baylor's trainers for several years, picked up Lady and her twin brother last week and brought them back to his ranch in Los Angeles. (Lady's brother, as well as Joy's twin brother, are owned by Handley, who trains animals to work in the movie industry.) Ylitalo and members of the Chamber's bear committee picked up Lady at Handley's ranch and headed home to Texas.
"It was great fun bringing her back from Los Angeles in the cab of a pickup truck," said Dustin Boyd, a Waco senior and Chamber bear coordinator, who remarked that Lady's excursions at gas stations and fast food restaurants drew quite a few curious stares from onlookers. "Every stop, we let her out to get some exercise and begin getting acclimated to both people and new surroundings."
Now a growing toddler, Lady lives in her own enclosure at the Steve Hudson Memorial Bear Plaza.
As a baby, her schedule -- and that of her trainer -- began after 8 a.m. each day when the bear woke up for her first formula feeding of the day. When she was full, Ylitalo said, Lady began "exploring," until it was time to eat again about five hours later.
"She's very active, very curious, very mischievous and energetic. She likes to check everything out," he said. "She's definitely an explorer."
In addition to eating and exploring, Lady enjoys getting out and meeting her public. Ylitalo and bear committee members take the new mascot for at least two walks a day, near the apartment and on campus. She has visited several classrooms and already met hundreds of Baylor freshmen-to-be, who are on campus in June for orientation sessions.
"She's done well during her walks on campus," Ylitalo said, "and she and Joy see each other through the fence that separates them."
Joy has responded favorably to her little sister. The plan is, Ylitalo said, to have Joy and Lady make joint appearances at football games beginning this fall.
"Joy is just an outstanding bear," Ylitalo said. "She does so well with people, and she's enjoying her time in the bear pit. She likes the top pool and the moat, but we're working on getting her used to the lower pool, too."
Joy is fed twice a day and plays with her trainers at least once a day. While campus walks are still part of Joy's routine, the 150-pound bear enjoys some new additions to her quarters, like a log swing, which is quickly becoming the bear's favorite.
"It's hollow, so we put honey in it and she likes foraging for it," Boyd said.
And like Joy, Lady will begin her mascot training later this summer when Handley comes back to the Baylor campus for a training session on "natural" behaviors. A Baylor mascot's usual repertoire of Sic 'em, stand up and sit down are things bears do naturally, like "reaching up and grabbing berries off of trees," said Tyler Sellers, a 2002 Baylor graduate and Joy's trainer last year.
Training is as simple and natural as possible. It's coming up with a name that might be a little more difficult.
But Ylitalo said the decision to name the mascot after Baylor's first lady was easy.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
"Last year, Mrs. Sloan invited the Baylor Chamber of Commerce to dinner at the president's home," Ylitalo said. "Then right before the first home football game of the season, we saw her out cleaning up around the bear pit to get everything ready for fans coming to campus. She really deserves this honor, and I think it's really neat that both first ladies have been honored in this way."
Baylor's president couldn't agree more.
"It was really wonderful last year when they named Joy after Mrs. Reynolds, who has had such an enormous influence on Baylor University and on the life of the community," Dr. Sloan said. "I know Sue is thrilled to be a part of the tradition."
Mrs. Reynolds is the wife of Baylor President Emeritus Herbert H. Reynolds, who also has had a bear named in his honor. Chance, a 3-year-old bear christened with Reynolds' nickname, was retired in June to Bear Country USA in South Dakota.
Lady's official title is "Judge Sue Sloan," although the bear will be known to the Baylor family as Lady. The mascot was introduced to her namesake, as well as to the president and the rest of the Sloan family, June 24 at the president's house on campus.
The naming honor was kept a secret from Baylor's first lady until the pair met for the first time on the Sloan's front lawn. Mrs. Sloan, a 1970 Baylor graduate, said she was "astonished" by the honor, which she shares with her family, including her late parents, J.D. and Lucy Collier of Cisco.
"My parents, who didn't go to college, were big Baylor fans," Mrs. Sloan said. "My brothers attended Baylor and we came to football games when I was in grade school. In fact, my family still has the same season tickets. They've just added more seats through the years."
Dr. Sloan and four of the seven Sloan children -- Bryan, Alathea, Sophia and Paul -- clearly enjoyed watching the meeting of bear and namesake.
Alathea Sloan has spent her summer researching Baylor history for a self-guided campus tour for the Wiethorn Visitors Center. While she and other students came across the history of the bear mascot, the senior University Scholar heard that Baylor would be getting a new bear this summer. However, she had no idea that Lady would have family ties.
"It's really neat and such an honor for us, too," she said.
Dr. Sloan called the naming of Lady after his wife an "incredible honor." Like Mrs. Sloan, he harkens back to her parents, who "bled green and gold."
"Her dad and mom adopted Baylor, but I bet they never thought a bear would be named after their daughter."