(Mobile, Ala.) - A large grizzly bear and his trainer took center stage in a caged stage at the Gulf Coast Exploreum.
One minute the bear is looking all ferocious, the next, as cuddly as a little, well, bear.
And young Morgan Lenore was absolutely fascinated by it all.
"That man is teaching it all kinds of crazy stuff!" he said, sitting at his father's side.
The show, called "The Grizzly Experience," allowed Morgan to do something rather unusual.
"You want to come see this because you're never going to see a bear this close," said Gretchen Jaspring, the executive director of the Gulf Coast Exploreum.
That's the temporary home of the traveling exhibit.
The Grizzly Experience is a great way to learn about one of North America's biggest predators.
Dexter Osborn grew up around zoos, has tangled with a few gators in his life, and now he and his family have dedicated their lives to teaching us about these incredible animals. It's a lesson we need to learn, said Dexter.
"Down here in the south the black bear populations has really exploded, all through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, they're starting to see a lot more sightings," he said, "And also with the population growing they are moving more into the bear's natural habitat. there are a lot more of those human bear encounters lately."
But these encounters are carefully controlled, although it's obvious there's a connection.
After all, the Osborns received Tonka from a zoo when he was only 6 weeks old.
"He is a grizzly bear," said Dexter. "He's got to be respected and treated like a grizzly bear."
But it becomes obvious to all that Dexter is very fond of his furry friends.
"Our bears are our kids!" he said.
There are two cubs, too. Their names are Yogi and Boo Boo.
And there is a human son, too, holding a sippy cup from his kiddie chair.
But even Dexter's wife will tell you the bears complete the family circle.
"They live up to 35 years so they are part of the family and will stay with us their entire life," she said.
That's an arrangement that brings up all kinds of questions.
Like, what would you feed a bear?
"Marshmallows or dog food!" said little Morgan for the stands, "They said it eats dog food!"
It's good to know the bear fans are paying attention!
You can see the exhibit daily through Saturday, January 6 at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.
Call the Gulf Coast Exploreum for ticket prices and information at (251) 208-6873