Baylor Welcomes Its Newest ‘Students’: Two Black Bears

The Texas university has a long history of studying bears at its Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited bear habitat.
portrait of Evan Castillo
Evan Castillo
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Evan Castillo is an associate writer on BestColleges News and wrote for the Daily Tar Heel during his time at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He's covered topics ranging from climate change to general higher education news, and he is...
Published on June 12, 2023
Edited by
portrait of Darlene Earnest
Darlene Earnest
Read Full Bio

Editor & Writer

Darlene Earnest is a copy editor for BestColleges. She has had an extensive editing career at several news organizations, including The Virginian-Pilot and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also has completed programs for editors offered by the D...
Learn more about our editorial process
Image: Baylor University's newest residents, Judge Indy (left) and Judge Belle (right). Credit: Matthew Minard/Baylor University

  • The Baylor bear habitat began hosting American black bears in 1917. Students and animal experts care for the bears.
  • Cousins Judge Indy and Judge Belle are being adopted from an Idaho wildlife park.
  • The Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat is the only university to have Association of Zoos and Aquariums accreditation, according to Baylor.

Baylor University is enrolling two new “students” this fall semester: black bear cousins Judge Indy and Judge Belle.

Baylor announced last month that it was planning to move the cubs from a wildlife park in Idaho to the Waco, Texas, university's Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

Baylor has continued a tradition of keeping American black bears at its habitat since 1917. The habitat stands on three guiding pillars — stewardship, education, and conservation.

Animal specialists train and mentor Baylor students on how to care for the bears. Students on the Bear Committee and Lead Team plan nutritional meals, maintain the bears' habitat, and develop educational curriculum for the visiting community.

Indy and Belle will be remarkable ambassadors for Baylor and the bear program's unique mission of stewardship, education and conservation for the local community and beyond, Baylor President Linda A. Livingstone said in the press release.

According to Baylor, it is the first university to receive AZA accreditation. The habitat and student care team must meet AZA and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

Image: Judge Indy (left), Judge Belle (right). Credit: Matthew Minard/Baylor University.

I share in the Baylor Family's excitement at the arrival of Judge Indy and Judge Belle to the Baylor campus, and I am particularly thrilled for our students and alumni, who have such a deep bond with our bears and the longstanding tradition of the Baylor Bear Habitat, Kevin Jackson, Baylor vice president for student life, said in the press release.

The cubs are taking the place of Judge “Lady” Sue Sloan, who graduated from the habitat this spring and is moving to a new private auxiliary facility. Lady, the 21-year-old black bear, was named after the wife of Robert B. Sloan Jr., the 12th Baylor president. Lady also shares Sue Sloan's nickname of “First Lady of Baylor.”

Judge Indy, the largest of her litter, was born Jan. 24 and currently weighs 25 pounds. Baylor observers say she has already taken the more dominant role of the pair and is more independent than Judge Belle. But she still loves wrestling with her cousin. Her favorite snacks are blueberries and blackberries.

She's named after the university's birthplace, Independence, Texas.

Image: Judge Indy running. Credit: Matthew Minard/Baylor University.

Judge Belle is the smaller of the duo. She was born Jan. 29, the smallest cub of her litter. She loves wrestling with her cousin, strolling through the wildflowers, and climbing trees.

She's named after the campus bell chimes, which Baylor observers say fits her personality since she often shows her feelings through loud squawks and chirps.

Just as Joy (Lady's late older sister) and Lady served for more than two decades as an enduring symbol of Baylor's spirit and tradition, we look forward to Indy and Belle in residence at the Bill and Eva Williams Bear Habitat, where they will receive the same world-class supervision and protection of their dedicated student caregivers, staff and veterinary personnel, Livingstone said in the press release.

Image: Judge Belle strolling through the wildflowers. Credit: Matthew Minard/Baylor University.

Baylor hopes the bears can enjoy “move-in day” like their human counterparts in mid-August. Until then, they will have a gradual introduction and constant supervision in and out of the public exhibit through the summer.

They are bursting with energy, so over the next few months we'll continue to prioritize building trust with their Chamber caregivers and bonding with them along with exposing them to lots of new sights, sounds, foods and scents to best enrich their development as cubs, Dakota Farquhar-Caddell, associate director of student activities, said in the press release.

Judge Indy and Judge Belle are the most remarkable bears — they love people, are resilient and exude so much hope, said Farquhar-Caddell. It's clear after my time with them that they will fit in perfectly with the Baylor Family.

“We cannot wait until the entire Baylor Family gets to appreciate them in person — they bring so much joy to everyone they encounter.