For over 23 years Stepan has been living with animal tamers Svetlana and Yuri Panteleenko, who however see themselves not as tamers, but rather as bear fosterers, but who never though raising Stepan was more than they could bear!
Bearing the burden:
Back in 1993 the couple purchased the 3-month-old cub, who was then small enough to fit in the palm of a palm, from the St. Petersburg zoo.
“Back then the economic situation in the country was quite hard and there was almost nothing to feed the animals with,” Yuri Panteleenko told Sputnik.
“Out of the six cubs he was the thinnest, the weakest and was constantly tormented by the other cubs,” the couple recalls.
“When he got into my arms, he cuddled to me and I felt with my heart that he was my favorite one,” Yuri further recalls.
Bearing no resentment:
“Probably there was a symbiosis, when a weak carnivore unable to survive in a wild nature, has found a protection and help from a human being. Hence is his love for people,” Yuri said.
Looking at this cute giant, who is now 23 years old, weighs 300 kg and stands over 2 meters high, it is hard to believe that the bear is so domesticated that the family often sit down together in the evenings to watch television or share a meal.
Bearing no ill will:
The couple reveal their secret by saying that they position themselves as fosterers, and not as tamers. They certainly don’t beat or otherwise force the animal to do any tricks but instead encourage his behavior through play, pleasure and interest.
“The main thing for a fosterer is to be a psychologist and know the habits and the motives of an animal,” the couple told Sputnik.
However, Svetlana and Yuri stress, safety always comes first in dealing with a bear. They make sure Stepan is always well fed and mentally relaxed. His favorite pastime is playing, and he prefers balls and tires.
Even though the bear spends much of his time with the family, he lives in a separate house and has his own pool. However, the couple say their pet is very jealous of their three dogs and wants to remain their favorite.
Svetlana said that he misses the family very much when they need to go away on business.
Bearing the bell:
Stepan is a movie star and has been cast in a number of films. He has also been performing at parties for kids for over 20 years already.
Last year, the 300kg brown bear appeared in a series of photos which went viral in Russia.
You can learn more about the bear on his official website, which unfortunately is only in Russian.