Just one more minute! Playful brown bear refuses to get off picnic table for his Finnish ‘father’ who looks after six of the giant predators
- The big friendly beast couldn’t help rolling about on the tabletop
- He lives at an outdoor park with Finnish ‘bearman’ Sulo Karjalainen
- 73-year-old runs a centre with his brother in the north of the country
This playful bear clearly forgot his table manners when he was treated to a teddy bears picnic.
The big friendly beast couldn’t help rolling about on the tabletop as his keeper laid on an al fresco lunch.
But, as the song goes, that is the way teddy bears have their picnics.
The bear lives at an outdoor park with Sulo Karjalainen – known to many in his native Finland as ‘the bearman’.
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Finnish bear man Sulo Karjalainen high-fives a playful bear at his sanctuary in Kuusamo, Finland
Sulo Karjalainen, who runs Kuusamo Large Carnivore Centre with his brother Jalo, is known to many in his native Finland as the ‘bearman’
Sulo Karjalainen comes nose to nose with a bear in Kuusamo, Finland
The 73-year-old runs Kuusamo Large Carnivore Centre with his brother Jalo in the north of the country, which has been home to more than 20 orphaned brown bears.
He was born in 1941 in Rovaniemi, but has spent most of his life on the same farm in Kuusamo – seeing his first wild bear before the age of ten.
‘If you’re born in the woods, there’s something of the animal in you too,’ Mr Karjalainen said.
‘People know me because of the animals. That makes me happy. When you’ve lived in the forest since childhood, you’re naturally close to animals.’
The bearman’s family ran a dairy cattle farm – and in the absence of a babysitter, his mother was happy to leave her young son to play in the sheep pen, before picking him up in the afternoon.
The family gave up farming after Finland joined the EU in 1995, at which point Mr Karjalainen began working on a research project studying Finnish carnivores.
And it wasn’t long before the animal-lover was asked if he would mind taking in a pair of orphaned cubs. Over the years a deep bond has grown up between Sulo and his furry companions.
‘I look after them until they were well, and if they couldn’t be released into the wild again, they stayed here with me,’ Mr Karjalainen said.
Mr Karjalainen kneels in the snow next to a bear while reading a magazine with Winnie the Pooh on the cover
Sulo Karjalainen throws a friendly arm around the shoulders of a bear
Sulo Karjalainen has spent most of his life on the same farm in Kuusamo – seeing his first wild bear before the age of ten
‘It’s all just happened naturally and it’s been very rewarding. I’ve always aimed to give the animals everything they need and make sure they lead good lives.’
The Fin is bemused to have become a celebrity in his homeland due to his incredible relationship with the predators – even starring in his own TV documentary.
And while he isn’t afraid of the bears but he is always careful with them.
The 73-year-old runs Kuusamo Large Carnivore Centre with his brother Jalo, which has been home to more than 20 orphaned brown bears
‘Bears are very playful animals and if you aren’t aware of what they’re doing, you might get hurt,’ the Fin added.
‘One time a bear cut my cheek open with his claw while he was trying to play with me.’
At present Mr Karjalainen looks after six bears – and the ‘bearman’ has no plans to retire any time soon.
Snow fun: Two bears eat fruit out of a snowman at the sanctuary run by Sulo Karjalainen
Sulo Karjalainen is affectionately liked by one of his bears, in Kuusamo, Finland
Mr Karjalainen dangles two bunches of green grapes above the mouths of two hungry bears in Kuusamo, Finland
Dinner time: Two bears eat on a table in front of Finnish ‘bear man’ Sulo Karjalainen
Sulo Karjalainen’s new-born cubs who now live at the Kuusamo Large Carnivore Centre