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It's tea time with mama bear at Myakka ranch

Conservation habitat facility Bearadise Ranch in Myakka City is hosting education and demonstration events with its bears.


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At 26, Carroll the European brown bear, who is Bearadise Ranch's celebrity resident, has taken up a new hobby.

Painting.

So Bearadise Ranch owner Monica Welde will let Carroll, who once starred in a Toyota commercial, demonstrate "paw painting" to those who attend the Teddy Bear Tea Party on May 7 at Bearadise Ranch in Myakka City.

The event will allow the public to watch the nine bears in a natural habitat while Welde delivers information about the bears. Besides the "paw painting" demonstration, those who attend will be treated to a tea party that includes lunch and dessert. Welde has arranged for some "surprise animal guests" to visit the event and the kids can enjoy bear cookie decorating.

"I try to come up with different things to attract people who haven't been here," Welde said. "I thought a tea party would be cute. Little kids love tea parties."

Of the nine bears on the ranch, six are European brown bears, one is a grizzly, and two are Syrian brown bears. Five are females and four are males. Carroll is the only one on the ranch who is a mother.

Welde, who took over responsibility for the ranch's operation after her husband Johnny Welde died in 2017, said she has cut way down on summer travel for the Bears so she needs to find ways to generate funds at the ranch. It is the first time she is hosting a Mother's Day tea party and she also has added a summer kids' camp for the first time. The came runs June 6-10.

This is Welde's 23rd year at Beardise Ranch.

Carroll has been linked with the Welde family for generations, dating back to the 1920s in Europe.

Besides providing funds for the feeding and care of the bears, Welde said special events like the tea party and camp provide information to the newest generation.

"Children ask me a lot of good questions and they might be future conservationists and biologists," she said.

Fortunately, Welde said the pandemic's grip has eased and more people are visiting Bearadise again. She said others in the Myakka area who have animal facilities have told her their numbers are up as well.