Bear It All: Jeff Watson & His Grizzlies!
Posted on 2/14/2019 by Visit French Lick West Baden
Wilstem Ranch introduced a new experience in the Fall of 2018…Jeff Watson and his grizzlies, Bob & Screech formerly of Animal Planet’s Project Grizzly! The trio moved to the southern Indiana ranch where some of the most fascinating animal experiences can be had!
As a young 20-year-old, Jeff contracted a neurological disease called Guillain Barre Syndrome…as a result his legs were paralyzed for a short time. Jeff, who had always been healthy and athletic started feeling the effects of the disease. He eventually regained the use of his legs but never returned to his former self. Jeff began looking for something to occupy his time, in late Summer 1988, Jeff met someone who had acquired a bear cub as a pet. Jeff says, “that’s when I realized I wanted to spend my life with these creatures.” Jeff became acquainted with the raising and handling of bears, that’s when he started to entertain the idea of “marrying his hobby” and growing it into an occupation. Jeff began training for the film and television industry…with credits that include cover shots for National Geographic magazine and “Walker, Texas Ranger” starring Chuck Norris, Jeff was able to generate enough income to feed his grizzlies and his family. Jeff who had grew up watching the television series “Grizzly Adams,” had always wanted to raise a bear. Jeff says, “I never believed in my wildest dreams that it would become a reality.” Jeff living his wildest dreams starred in a small role portraying the real John “Grizzly” Adams for a 1998 mini-series about PT Barnum starring Beau Bridges.
When asked why grizzlies? Jeff said, “There’s an old saying…If you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly. I’ve raised American black bears as well, but my affinity has always been with brown bears which includes the grizzlies.” Jeff says, “Bears like humans, each have their own personalities and their own personality traits, that’s what makes them uniquely individual. Whether it be a sneaky character or and ominous mind, bears are just as varied as people are.”
Some of Jeff’s favorite memories involving his bears include having them in Muhammed Ali’s yard and on the sets of various film and television shows. Jeff says, “but my best memories are the private times that I have spent with the bears and my family over the last thirty years.” Jeff says, “My wife Leanne passed away 10 years ago, and I value the many private memories I have of raising the bears with her and my daughter by my side.”
Jeff gave some advice for those individuals looking to follow in his footsteps of raising an apex carnivore…he says you should first narrow down what your specific goals and desires are. Jeff says, “there are many variables such as licensing and permitting requirements that you must abide by.” He says, “No matter how much love you provide to the animal you will never be able to make them surrender their natural instincts.”
Jeff says that the move to Wilstem Ranch has been great! Jeff’s interest has always been to hang out with his bears while sharing them with the public…Wilstem Ranch has afforded him that opportunity. Jeff says, “owner Jerry Fuhs, has spared no expense in making sure that the bears have everything that they need to be comfortable, engaged and mentally stimulated in their natural enclosure.” Jeff would love to be able to call Wilstem Ranch home from this point on!
Wilstem Ranch has a one-of-a-kind experience…meet Jeff, Bob and Screech and learn about how to stay safe in bear country, help prepare the bear’s breakfast, ask questions, view the bears up close and take some unique photos. Find all of this and more in #MyFrenchLick!