Usually, the last thing that you would want to see on a camping trip is a massive brown bear, but that’s not exactly a problem for one family in Russia. Svetlana Panteleenko and her family has owned their 7-foot-tall bear—named Stepan—for 20 years, and he is a constant companion on their camping trips. Panteleenko claims that the bear is perfectly tame and has never, to her knowledge, bitten anybody. This is why she trusted the hulking animal even around her small children.
“Of course we were scared at first — the bear is so huge!” she told Caters News. “But everything went smoothly. Stepan is just like a very big, kind dog. I would say you feel safe and secure in his paws.”
Of course, many would still be wary around an animal the size of Stepan, but Panteleenko and her husband, Yury, have been living with the bear for over 2 decades. According to RBTH, the couple first adopted the bear when it was just a cub. Stepan was originally owned by a small circus near St. Petersburg that could no longer afford to feed him, so the Panteleenkos decided to care for him instead. The couple raised the bear in their cottage near Moscow, and after a brief stint as an international celebrity, the bear retired and now spends its days around the cottage or in a pool they had built specifically for the bear.
“We have usual furniture in our house, nothing special,” Yury told RBTH. “Stepan, of course, helps to take apart aging furniture and helps us keep up with the repairs of the house, but just in a support role. The clumsiness of bears is a stereotype. He would never destroy and tear apart things he loves.”
The couple also feeds the bear an all-vegetable diet, which they suspect may be a factor in its docile behavior. Panteleenko said Stepan was mostly calm during their most recent summer camping trip, and acted as a guard dog while the family set up tents, cooked dinner, and did other camp tasks. One benefit of having a large brown bear with you in the woods is that other predators will definitely keep their distance. However, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some curious bruins might come investigating.
You can see videos of the bear below: