​The Only Man In The World Who Can Swim With A Polar Bear

Meet Mark Dumas, the only man in the world who can swim with a polar bear - which he says is down to much more than just sheer balls.

Mark Dumas and his wife, Dawn, are fearless animal handlers at Beyond Just Bears in Canada, whose unusual pet is a polar bear named Agee.

Agee is a 60-stone (800lb) polar bear that they've managed to train to star in high-budget TV adverts and movies. She's also often seen messing about with Mark, giving him bear hugs, accepting loving kisses and even swimming with him.

But Mark reckons it's down to much more than just being brave and ballsy around such large, potentially dangerous animals - and that it's down to decades of forging a strong friendship.

Speaking to LADbible, Mark said that he's been with Agee her whole life - which he also argues is longer thanks to her way of life with him.

"Agee has lived with me for her whole life," he tells us. "She's always there. I'm with her until she passes or I pass. I mean, that's just the way it is."

Explaining that in the wild, polar bears usually live until about 15 to 20, he added: "She's 23 years old. In captivity they live until they're roughly between 30 and 35 years old."

He also said that the oldest polar bear to live in captivity was 42 - setting a good benchmark for what he hopes will be a long life together with Agee.

Credit: Barcroft
Credit: Barcroft

"Aggy's life is a really good life. She doesn't have to hunt, all the groceries are brought to her and it's top-quality food. There's not a matter of having to go out on the ice and kill something - she doesn't do that.

"She actually enjoys going to work. When I pull the trailer out she gets very excited about the fact that the trailer is there and she's gonna go somewhere.

"You know, and she's not in a zoo where she just has all the same things. She gets out - like this one job we have that's plausible right now, she's gonna go and play in the snow."

What about any hairy moments, surely an inevitable side effect to owning such a large animal?

"No, I mean she bit me when she was young, but that's to be expected," says Mark.

"You can't teach them to not do something unless they've done it. So with baby bears you're gonna get bit. That's just how baby bears are.

"That's how you teach them. Even with humans you have to teach a baby not to bite you."

Credit: Barcroft
Credit: Barcroft

Mark also explained that it's about understanding the animal as each one is very different - something he's well aware of as he is also the proud owner of a six-year-old grizzly bear called Billy, deer, a wolf, reindeer and, formerly, mountain lions who passed away because of old age.

"Billy is a goofball," he says of the grizzly's personality. He adds: "The thing is, the difference between a grizzly bear and a polar bear is the polar bear has absolutely no sense of humour and the grizzly bear has a great sense of humour."

Surprisingly, though, it's not Agee or Billy that's the hardest work. It wasn't even the mountain lions.

"The eagle, Liberty. She's bitchy as hell," explains Mark.

"You have to be aware of how they are. Eagles are birds. You know, they didn't get the name 'bird brain' for nothing. They're not the smartest creatures in the world, but they sure have nasty tempers."

Mark reckons polar bears are nothing compared to eagles. Credit: PA
Mark reckons polar bears are nothing compared to eagles. Credit: PA

Mark says that while he lives a very happy life with Dawn and the animals, there are many people who are quick to criticise - whether that's calling him out for recklessly choosing to live with dangerous creatures (with some worrying he'll end up 'turning into polar bear poop'), or slamming his choice to own a wild animal.

He tells us: "I kind of ignore any criticisms - in fact not just kind of, I just flat out ignore all of that stuff because what do they know? What do these people think they know? More than I do?

"Like, have they ever swam with a polar bear, and enjoyed the relationship that I have with this animal? No, they don't, they have no clue.

"They don't know that I've spent all this time with this animal. I taught her how to swim - I've done all these different things with her.

""There's humaniacs wherever you go, and that's exactly what I call them, these humaniacs.

"My question to these people that have these statements about her is: would she be better off out in the wild and dead? They don't live that long in the wild. They don't live like that."

Featured Image Credit: Barcroft

Jess Hardiman

Jess Hardiman is a journalist who graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film Studies, English Language and Literature, and has previously worked for Time Out and The Skinny among others.

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