MDC Staff, courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation.
A black bear nicknamed "Bruno" by his social media followers wandered hundreds of miles across four states before authorities sedated and relocated him.
Bruno was likely just searching for a mate while he roamed through Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri in recent weeks, according to conservation authorities.
But he "cornered himself" near two busy Missouri highways on July 5 and authorities decided the safest solution for Bruno and the public was to immobilize and relocate him.
He was first spotted crossing from Wisconsin to Illinois on June 10 and was finally rescued on July 5.
The intrepid black bear who trekked across at least four states, spanning hundreds of miles, in search of a mate has finally been sedated and relocated after he "cornered himself" between two highways, authorities said.
Bruno the bear has been spotted in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
—Pike Co IL Sheriff (@PikeCoSheriff) June 29, 2020
He racked up a formidable social media following in recent weeks as onlookers tracked his whereabouts. A Facebook group titled "Keeping Bruno Safe" even amassed more than 150,000 members.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said in a press release that Bruno was likely just searching for a mate, and was unlikely to linger around the public for long. He was first spotted crossing from Wisconsin into Illinois on June 10 and was finally immobilized and relocated on July 5.
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But keeping both Bruno and the public safe quickly posed a challenge. The animal roamed across major roadways, even prompting the Pike County Sheriff's Department in Illinois to help block a highway so Bruno could safely cross.
Conservation authorities were initially reluctant to intervene in Bruno's travels, hoping to let nature "take its course," but the MDC said once the bear "cornered himself" near the I-70 and I-40/61 highways, the situation changed.
"The bear found itself in a tough spot, stuck by several major roadways," MDC State Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee said in a statement. "Due to the proximity to the roadways, coupled with the busy travel day, MDC staff determined the bear had little chance of safely leaving the area on its own. In the interest of public safety and the bear's safety, MDC staff made the decision to immobilize the bar and transport it to a nearby area of suitable bar habitat outside this urban corridor."
MDC staff said Bruno was "released unharmed when he awoke" from the sedative. The department said immobilization is generally a last resort when it comes to handling bears, but since Bruno was trapped in a dangerous spot, "the situation allowed for it to be done."
By the time staff managed to sedate Bruno, a crowd of more than 400 onlookers had gathered near the highway, according to MDC.
Previously, conservation authorities had warned the public to always stay at least 100 yards away from Bruno, though the IDNR said some people did not listen.
More than 300 people in one Illinois county even gathered "to view, follow, and harass the bear," the IDNR said.
"For the most part, we've not seen conflicts between the public and bear until recently and, unfortunately, those conflicts were caused entirely by people," IDNR district wildlife biologist Stefanie Fitzsimons said in a statement. "It's a novelty to see a bear in Illinois, and people want to see it for themselves, but they must remember that the outcome for this bear — whether IDNR must step in and take action to protect public safety — is completely dependent on how the public react to it. If the bear is left alone, it can continue its journey safely on its own."
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