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The Bear Who Will Objectify You

The bear who helped T.J. Miller get a role in the upcoming Yogi Bear movie is used to playing the straight man.

“We have taught our animals to look at actors and cameramen as props and to not even focus on them,” says Eric Weld, the owner and trainer at Hollywood Animals. That doesn’t exactly sound like you’ll build up a close rapport, but I guess it beats getting mauled.

About one to four people a month pay the $600 for a personal animal encounter, usually with bears or tigers, Weld says. The animal playdate business is seasonal (winter is slow) and impacted by the economy. Most people are just happy to hang out with the animal (under close supervision of a trainer), take some pictures and offer the animal some treats.

To get the animals used to being around people, they have to be handled from a young age and live in the trainer’s house. That means they’re usually bought from a breeder, Weld says, not that they wouldn’t take a rescue if one came along. “We use affection-training methods as the grow older, after they have had time to be cubs of course,” Weld says. “We believe that the first way to have a relationship with any wild animal is to create a bond with them when they are young and continue that bond through mutual respect and understanding between trainers and animals.”


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