Season 6 - Episode 623
This Spring, Baylor announced the upcoming addition of two cubs to campus—Judge Indy and Judge Belle. Indy and Belle are American black bear cubs who will soon call campus home. Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, Associate Director of Student Activities and the Robert Reid Director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce, oversees the Baylor Bear program. In this Connections, he takes listeners inside the process to find Indy and Belle, shares insights into their personalities and highlights Baylor’s care for Lady as she graduates from campus to her new Baylor home.
Derek Smith:Hello and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week we go in-depth with Baylor Leaders, professors and more discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. I'm Derek Smith, and today we are talking bears. As Baylor has welcomed two new bear cubs to campus, we're visiting with Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, Associate Director of Student Activities, and the Robert Reed director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. He oversees the growing Baylor Bear program. This spring we said Baylor announced the addition of these two new cubs. Judge Indy and Judge Belle. Indy and Belle are both American black bear cubs born in January who will join the Baylor family in the weeks ahead through a gradual introduction to the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat. Indy and Belle become part of a long line of bears who have called Baylor home, including Judge Lady who recently graduated with the 2023 spring class. She'll move to a private habitat, specifically designed to provide a high standard of care complimenting the AZA accredited Bill and Ava Williams Bear Habitat. Dakota, it's been a very busy time for you and your team, and we appreciate you taking the time to share with us today about this exciting news. Thanks so much for joining us.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah, Derek, thanks for having me. The news has been, just the response we've had has been overwhelming. We knew that the Baylor family was thrilled and kind of chomping at the bit for this next season of Bears, and it has blown all of that just out of the water, real practical things. I mean, it blew all of our social media records out of the water. Baylor has never seen a response across Facebook and Twitter and Instagram like they have with Indy and Belle, but just less tangibly, more from the heart. Just the Baylor family has just poured out just phenomenal testimonies of love and support for our tradition of caring for bears. And one of the most beautiful things about, I think the bear habitat is that the care of the bears aren't just limited to our student team or our veterinary care team. It's really a family affair. The whole Baylor family is in on it. We are all caregivers and stewards of God's creation in this way. And so to see that showcased and just highlighted and celebrated was beautiful. It's been awesome.
Derek Smith:How nice was it to finally get the news out as well, Dakota? I know you guys have been working a lot behind the scenes quietly to make this happen.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah, we've been working on it for a while and it was a huge relief. We've been waiting, counting down the days to where everyone could just celebrate together. And so it was a big relief and it's been really energizing. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of time and a lot of patience to care for bear cubs well and releasing the news and the people being so excited. Really, it re-energized us too because it reminded us of why this matters so much. It matters so much to the Baylor family, and it's just a gift that we get to help steward that.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dakota Farquhar-Caddell and Dakota, over the next 20 minutes or so, we'll talk about finding them, integrating them into campus. We'll talk about Lady as well and her graduation to her new facility. But let me start off by just asking you who are Indy and Belle, we know a little bit about it, but tell us a little bit about who they are and what their personalities bring.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Gosh, they are, every day is a new day with them. I don't know if anyone who have kid kids out there. You learn kind of as you go, and the way you parent one kid is not the way you parent another. I have four kiddos at home and I know firsthand how it varies, and so Bear Cubs are no different. And Indy and Belle are very different from one another, and we're learning as we go. Indy, named for Independence, Texas, the birthplace of Baylor University, is much like her namesake independent. She kind of is the first one to explore new territory, try new things, climb new trees. She is the first one who has started to eat solid foods a little bit, and she just really explores more freely, she feels more independent. And she's also quite a bit more coordinated than Belle, which we'll get to in a second. So she's a little better of a climber. She has a little more confidence. She's starting to form into kind of the alpha bear out of the two. Lots of times when animals are companion animals to one another, they kind of fill in different roles. And so Indy is starting to fill in more of the alpha role. She's also the bigger bear, so where we got them from, the Rescue Center had 16 cubs this year, which was far more than they had capacity for, and Indy was the biggest of all 16, so she's going to be a big bear. And Belle was the littlest of all 16, which I love the contrast that gives because when people come visit the habitat, they love to know which bears which, and hopefully as they grow and progress, we'll start to see, when you come to the habitat, you'll be able to point out which one's indie, which one's bell. They'll be a big size difference. There's a little bit of a color difference, some facial differences, which will be really fun for people. Now Belle is, she's kind of acting like that younger sister already. She picks the fights a little more than Indy, even though she can't keep up as much. It's not uncommon for Indy to just be exploring in some grass and Belle to kind of sneak up and just swat her side to pick a little playful fight, which is pretty fun. Belle is a little slower on the solid foods. They're both just bottle-fed, which we can talk about in a little bit. But she just started nibbling on some blueberries recently, still a little more tentative. She kind of follows Indy's lead, and Belle was named after the carillon bells and Pat Neff, which everyone who has been on campus, who has spent time at Baylor knows and loves the carillon bells, and you can hear them beautifully from the habitat. So we thought it was a really nice ode to our current campus. And like her namesake, Belle is the loudest. So out of the two she's the most vocal. She lets you know what she's thinking when she's thinking it, no holding back. And together, they're a remarkable pair. They're so fun to be around to watch, and they're going to offer really, really neat opportunities for our Baylor family.
Derek Smith:Does Belle like to climb too, or does she-
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Oh, yes. She loves to climb Now. She's not as coordinated. So we have begun the practice of circling some of the trees with these foam pads, five-inch foam pads, so that if she decides to take a tumble, she falls into a nice foam pad because she is not nearly as coordinated as Indy, but she'll get there.
Derek Smith:You're looking out for her. That's good.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah, absolutely.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, talking about Indy and Belle, Baylor's new black bear cubs. And so here's the question you probably get a lot, well, how? A very broad, how, just kind of take us through the process as much as makes sense on, okay, we realize we're going to be kind of looking for some new bears to bring to the family. How do we go about doing that?
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah, and you probably remember a couple of years ago when Lady had some of her health crisis, that's when we really realized it became real. Sometimes maybe you have a family member who has a health issue and you start to realize the reality of aging and the finite of life. And so that's when we realized, wow, we are kind of in the sunset years of Joy and Lady, which we never wanted to name or acknowledge because of how much they mean to us, but it was the responsible thing to do. So we started talking about how can we best care for these aging bears moving forward? How can we continue to give them the best possible life they can? Even as elderly geriatric, sometimes we call them grandma bears, and how can we continue to provide them that gold standard of care, honor their aging, make sure they have what they need to live the best possible days, and then what that means for the next stages. Does that mean new cubs? Does that mean older bears? What's the need out there? And one of our primary goals was to fill a need in the bear world. So where is there a need and how can we serve that need when it comes to black bears in America, and there is lots of bears that need a home each year. Whether it's because their mom was killed or perhaps they were a decent desensitized to humans, they're too friendly in a park. There's a variety of reasons that bears need a home potentially. They're in an overpopulated game park, which is where Indy and Belle came from. And so we kind of had a couple of litmus tests of check boxes. We wanted to make sure were right when we were looking for cubs. The first was that do they need a home? The second is, can they be rehabilitated to the wild because if they can, it's not a home for us. We're really in the business of making sure bears who need a home, have a home who can't be re-released into the wild and so can or can they not be re-released? And then finally, do they thrive off human interaction? Do they like a high traffic bustling college campus? Would this be the life for them? And we went through and worked with a lot of our partners, AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums has been phenomenal. USDA, Texas Parks and Wildlife, our world-class veterinary team and a campus-wide committee. We kind of sat around the table and just figured out where are the opportunities here, what makes sense for us to provide? Who, what, where, when, why? Asked lots of questions and then saw what emerged. And what listed to the top was this opportunity for Indy and Belle, which is an overpopulated park in which they could not be re-released. They cannot be re-released into the wild. They need to have human care to survive. And after a long process of evaluation and caring for them before bringing them to campus, it's very clear that to have their best life, they want to be around some high bustling, high-traffic environment. They thrive off activity of sights and sounds. They love people. They like trying new things. It's kind of like they were made for us and we were made for them in that sense that it's going to be a really good match.
Derek Smith:So you find them, you identify them as the right fits, what goes into getting to know them a little bit and to figuring out what it'll take to acclimate them to Baylor?
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Sure. Getting to know them is just spending eight to 12 hours a day sitting out there with them and letting them climb on you. Sometimes they pee on you. They love to swim, so one of their favorite things right now is to jump into their pool. We have a really small waiting pool for them that was also was originally built for a Lady as she retires. It's an in-ground pool that she doesn't have to step up or down into. So it's really good for her joints and she just will walk slowly into it. The deepest it gets is about 12 inches. So it'll be perfect for Lady to stay cool and still be in the water in a comfortable way. But it's also ironically perfect for the cubs because they can just slide her on it, and they don't know how to swim yet. And so 12 inches is perfect, and they'll get real wet. They'll roll around, Cubs soak up water like a sponge. They soak it all up and they hold it all in there. They weigh double their weight after they get out of the water and they run right over to us, jump in our lap. It's like the favorite thing to do, get us totally soaked and just roll around in the mud. It's their MO right now. And so that's what we do a lot to get to know them. We hang out with them. We're on their terms. One of the most important things of the habitat is called force-free animal care, which basically means we take all of our cues from the animals, what the animals, what the bears want is what we do and what a bear doesn't want to do, they won't do. So it's a pretty good model, and that's what they want to do right now. They just want to spend time with us. They want to get to know us more. They want to try out new foods they want to explore. So it's really a perfect day out there. The birds are chirping. Lately it's been pretty nice in Waco, and so the weather's nice. The bears are just running around getting to know the humans, and it's a perfect world.
Derek Smith:Visiting with Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, Associate Director of Student Activities and the Robert Reed, director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. He oversees the Bear program. And Dakota, as you talk about that, let's zoom out just a bit briefly for people who maybe aren't totally familiar with the Baylor Bear program we've used. Yeah, we've used terms like AZA accredited. Could you just give us a little bit of an overall sense of the program, regardless of who the bears are?
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:So the bear habitat, we've had bears on campus. Derek, as you'd probably know, for over a hundred years, which is a long time. It's longer than most zoos have been in existence. And so we have a lot of lessons we've learned along the way. And you said AZA earlier, we're an AZA certified facility, the only college campus in the country, or the world, that has AZA accreditation and AZA is the gold standard of care for animals. And when we became AZA accredited, probably about 30 or 40 years ago now, we were saying that we were basically naming that we wanted to be a part of the family that holds animal welfare, conservation, and education to the highest standard. And when you're a part of a network like that, you can't help but be better and help each other be better. And so the habitat itself is nestled right in the heart of campus and right off I35, which is pretty fun because we get a wide variety of folks. We boast over a quarter million visitors a year, and that's everything from the everyday college student walking in from their finals to their next test to some folks that have never even quite heard about Baylor. Just last week, we had a couple stop by the habitat. We were doing an educational presentation with Lady, and actually it was an educational presentation for a bride and a groom. They got married at McLean Stadium and walked over to see Lady, right after they got married and we got pictures, which is just awesome. They grew up going to Baylor and knowing Lady, so Lady has felt like their bear for the last 20 years. And so they got pictures with Lady. While we were doing that and talking to the bride and groom a couple walked up. They didn't even really know much about Baylor, but they pulled off I35. They Googled Baylor Bears and saw there was a habitat on campus with black bears. And they're like, "No way." So they pulled up, they walked up and they didn't even want to leave. They're on a road trip across Texas. They have so much to see, and they didn't want to leave the bear habitat because they thought it was so cool. And so that just speaks to the wide range of folks we see. We know we have two-year-olds come by, to 92-year olds come by, and we have all sorts of folks who are familiar with Baylor, who are not familiar with Baylor. People in the community. A couple of weeks ago, we hosted about a hundred kindergartners from a Waco Elementary school to learn about bears. And before that we hosted a high school class. And this summer we have another slate of educational presentations. And so the habitat really serves as this epicenter of community engagement, education, and then ultimately conservation. We really want to spread the word of conservation through Central Texas. And black bears are a phenomenal way to do that because they're actually native to Texas, which lots of folks don't realize. And we're starting to see the resurgence of black bears up in Texas. And so it's just a perfect, timely way to serve the community, to serve our family. And that's kind of the habitat in a nutshell.
Derek Smith:That's great. And a lot of different organizations, I mean obviously your Bear team, it's a 365 day-
Derek Smith:... 24/7 job, but the other organizations on campus partner with Yara. What does that look like briefly?
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah. Okay. So I said earlier it's a family affair and it really is. I don't know if you've ever heard this, there's a game called Five Clicks to Jesus. Have you heard of this game?
Derek Smith:I've not heard of this game.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Don't worry. It's a good game.
Derek Smith:Okay. I'm guessing it is. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't have brought it up.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:No, it's a game. It's a game. We used to play in high school on Wikipedia, and you start with any kind of Wikipedia article and see if you can get to the page about Jesus in six clicks. And the theory here about this is that everything is ultimately connected.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:And I kind of think the same way about the Bears, five clicks for the Bears on campus. You are always one or two degrees separated from the bears. You look across our community and everywhere from our dining services who offers the food to the bears, to our custodial and janitorial services who care and keep our campus clean, to our landscaping, who are there every week, all the way to our professors and our administration, our environmental and health and science and risk offices. They help us think every month, weekly, on a weekly basis about how to make sure we're being the most safe we can be for our bears. We've had schools, we have classes in the science building that have done nutrition studies on our bears. It just, there's no corner of campus that isn't touched or hasn't contributed to the bears. We've had an engineering students do engineering projects with the habitat to bolster and increased our habitat facilities. I could go on and on with how much everyone really, it takes everyone to lift the program and more than just the students. But I mean, the student care team is there every single day. Like you mentioned, the Chamber of Commerce students are phenomenal. On Christmas morning, Derek, when you're opening your presents this year, think about the bears for a second and know that we got some students out there. We're out there scooping that poop, scrubbing out their den, making sure they have the best breakfast possible. And really, it's kind of one of the best ways to spend Christmas morning is with the bears because we give them the biggest feast. But every day of the year, holidays, vacations, everything. We always have a team there of student caregivers who just love the bears more than anything. And that's what makes it so special is that.
Derek Smith:That's good. That's good as we visit with Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, and we talked a little bit earlier, we talked about Lady and she graduated. Now, people have still been seeing her even after the graduation. You've still been able to see her at the habitat, but take us inside the approach and the philosophy towards the next steps for her and allowing her to take a step back from the main stage.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah. Well, I'll answer, one of the questions we get most frequently right now is are we still going to get social media updates on Lady? Because people follow the habitat religiously and they love, it's one of their lifelines to figure out how the bears are doing. And I want to put all that to rest. Yes, everyone will still get to see pictures, videos, regular updates of Lady, even when she's out of the public eye. So have no fear. Everyone will get the check on her pretty regularly. But a lot of that care is adjusting our mechanisms for really enriching her and caring for her in a way that doesn't put any more stress on her body. She's 21 years old now, and that is kind of equivalent of a late 80s, early 90s year old human, which we all know our 90-year olds who are in great shape, who can still go on a walk around the block and can still drive themselves. And Lady's kind of like that. She's in great shape. She can still do her own thing. She loves still doing the stuff she always loves doing, but she's getting older. And so we do welfare checks every single day where we chart her growth and chart just her movements, her behaviors to make sure, I don't know if you've ever had a dog, Derek, that has grown old, but next thing you know, don't realize it, but your dog got old quick. And when they used to jump on the couch and have a treat, they don't want to jump on the couch anymore. And the next thing you know, they only want this kind of food. It's a slow, steady piece, and Lady hasn't shown any signs of that yet, but she's on the cusp of just slowly starting to slow down. Her body's getting old. And so I mentioned earlier the wading pool. She'll have a new brand new waiting pool, which is awesome for her. She will love that she has brand new padded flooring in her retirement facility. It'll be heated as well. So on those colder winter months, the actual flooring will be heated, which will be awesome. And she has so many just bear age appropriate things out there for her to engage with and stay healthy. And it's connected to the facility that she's been going to almost her whole life. So we always took Joy and Lady out to their kind of exercise enrichment facility about once a week. And it was kind of like their playground, a playground for bears, and it's connected to that. So it's the same facility that she's familiar with. It puts no more stress on her, and it's the same caregiving team that provides her care. And so I think it's just the ultimate way to help a Bear age is what we have set up for Lady.
Derek Smith:Is that unique for a university like Baylor, or is it an AZA accreditation thing when once the bear is off the main stage, we are the ones that still continue to care for her?
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah. Yeah, that's a good question. It's not uncommon for a bear to kind of circulate to another park or a site to age into their final days. It's more uncommon to invest in a whole second retirement facility just for an aging bear. I think it's unparalleled. I mean, in terms of the animal care world, it is unmatched to invest a whole nother facility for an aging bear. And the beauty of it is that we'll get to use it for the next 100 years. Because whenever we have especially complex veterinary visits or need to do some unique procedures, we can take any bears out there. They can be, they're kind of like an auxiliary facility for also veterinary procedures and medications. And so for lots of reasons, I just think it's unmatched and we've already have been providing world-class care, but adding the addition of this second facility is just incredible.
Derek Smith:That's great. Yeah. Well taken care of for sure. As we visit with Dakota Farquhar-Caddell. Dakota, as we get in the final two minutes. So you've been caring for bears that have been getting older, now bears are moving into the habitat who are quite young. What's that transition like welcoming cubs into the facility?
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Well, I tell you, one of the funnest things is the students getting to meet them because goodness, our student caregivers, like I said earlier, are second to none. They're phenomenal. They're learning new things every day. Griffin, our primary student caregiver, who is a caregiver for a Lady this past year will tradition into the cubs, I taught him how to make bottles the other day. And I think we often overlook how unique and special it is that our students get to do this for sand. I was looking at them teaching them how to make sure the water was not too hot, just warm enough putting in the formula. The Cubs drink milk at 52% fat.
Derek Smith:Oh, wow.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:It is thick. So I'm teaching them how to make these bottles and I look at them, I'm like, Griffin, this is pretty awesome. If kids are ever in your future Griffin, or if you have nieces or nephews, whatever the case may be, you'll be light years ahead of almost anyone else your age because you will know how to make a baby bottle.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:How awesome is that? And so seeing the students get to care for them and bond with them are phenomenal, they're just such hard workers. And it is, it's unique that we get to have Bears on campus and it's wildly unique that we could have students who love them up close and personal. And so I say that all that mixed together has just made for the most beautiful season, Derek. So energizing and fun and hopeful and joyful to get to be a part of this season. And our students are all in, our family's all in, the Baylor community's all in and Indy and Belle, I'm telling you, when people get to meet them on campus, let's say in four to six weeks, I'm hoping that it is going to turn all upside down. People are going to... I've seen comments on Facebook or social media already from students saying, "I'm going to lose so much study time at the habitat," because you are. You're going to go by and see them, and you're just going to not want to leave. And so I'm excited for this next season. I'm excited for Baylor. I'm grateful for just the resources and support Baylor has for this habitat and the program. And it's just a season of grad and hope.
Derek Smith:Well, that's very exciting. Well, Dakota, we look forward to, you say about four to six weeks or so?
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:What we're hoping for, yeah.
Derek Smith:Give or take.
Derek Smith:So social media will be where people-
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Yeah, absolutely.
Derek Smith:... Can probably get that info for sure. Well, Dakota, thanks for all the work you and your team do and for taking the time to share with us today. Obviously we're very excited to see them. So thanks so much for coming on here.
Dakota Farquhar-Caddell:Thanks Derek. See you.
Derek Smith:Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, Associate Director of Student Activities and the Robert Reed Director of the Baylor Chamber of Commerce. Our guest today on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder you can hear this, so the programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.