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EXHIBIT Black bears likely to be behind steering wheel



Published: Sun, August 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bears spend most of their year on a 700-acre ranch in Texas.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CANFIELD -- Andy, Jacki and Cindi are every driver's worst nightmare: They haven't taken a driver's license test, they can't read road signs, and they'll never apologize for cutting you off.

It's unlikely, however, that the trio will get pulled over at this week's Canfield Fair. Nobody's going to want to ticket a 400-pound North American black bear in a go-cart.

Andy, Jacki and Cindi are three North American black bears that will be performing at the fair's "The Great Bear Show." Part of their performance could include driving go-carts and rolling barrels.

Performances will be at 10 a.m. and 1 and 6 p.m. near the southwest corner of the fairgrounds. The show is sponsored by The Vindicator.

Bob Steele, the trainer, said the show serves to both entertain fairgoers with humor and protect the bears. He said the habitat of the North American black bear is rapidly disappearing because of development, and he provides a safe place for bears to live and thrive.

Longevity

Steele noted that his bears live to be 30 or 35 years old, while many black bears in the wild will die before they are 20.

"Some of us are out here for the welfare and well-being of the animal," he said. "As long as they're maintained right, they can bring you great personal satisfaction, rewards to let you know you're helping the species."

North American black bears are native to many parts of the United States and Canada and have a diet that includes meat, fish and vegetables. Steele said his adult bears eat between 20 and 25 pounds of food each day.

Steele keeps seven bears on his 200-acre ranch in Texas, including 450-pound Andy and 420-pound Jacki, both males, and 175-pound Cindi, a juvenile female. He said the bears spend most of their time, "living the life of luxury" on the ranch.

Steele also stressed, however, that the bears don't seem to mind spending four or five months on the road each year performing at circuses and fairs.

"I start up the truck and they're at the door and ready to go," he said.

hill@vindy.com




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