When Johnny Welde says he needs the bare necessities in life, he probably means the 13 bears that live in his own backyard. The Welde family estate is lovingly called the Bearadise Ranch.
Interacting with the huge 1,000-pound creatures does not scare the family. Monica Welde, Johnny’s wife, says that they “live and breathe these animals, we love them and they are a part of us.”
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The Welde family knows what the bears are capable of, and they claim they are not in danger. They have built a relationship over years of living with them. It all started 89 years ago, when Johnny’s grandfather moved over from Norway. The elder Welde had been training deadly animals in his home country, and in 1948, he brought a circus over to the United States for a tour.
The tour was a success. It was so successful that he settled in Tampa, Florida, with his wife Tove and daughter Conny. In the late 1950s and 1960s, they had bears doing TV shows. And now three generations later, the family has continued working with bears.
Johnny has continued to train the group of 13 bears for the movies. His work has included training bears for Lassie and Beverly Hillbillies.
Johnny and Monica hope that their son Johnny IV will continue working with the animals.