Bruno's search for a mate takes a detour. The black bear was tranquilized, moved to safe location after he 'cornered himself' in Missouri.

"Bruno" the bear
"Bruno" the bear

Bruno the black bear, whose interstate wanderlust inspired an international legion of followers, was tranquilized in Missouri and relocated for the safety of the animal and public.

Missouri conservation agents tracked the bear, which on Sunday “cornered himself” north of Interstate 70 and near Interstate 40, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. There, a crowd of 400 onlookers gathered.

“The bear found itself in a tough spot, stuck by several major roadways,” 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.

She added, “In the interest of public safety and the bear’s safety, MDC staff made the decision to immobilize the bear and transport it to a nearby area of suitable bear habitat outside this urban corridor.”

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MDC staff trained in wildlife handling successfully sedated the bear, the conservation department said. The bear’s condition was monitored by State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Sherri Russel and he was “released unharmed when he awoke,” the department added.

The bear, which spent much of June trekking though west-central Illinois, swam across the Mississippi River and into Missouri last week. On Thursday, the 350-pound animal lumbered into the area of Elsberry, a city of 1,934 residents 60 miles northwest of St. Louis.

He's gained quite a following: A black bear named Bruno has traveled 400 miles in search of a mate

A spokesperson for the Elsberry Police Department told the Journal Star in Peoria, Illinois, part of the USA TODAY Network, Bruno had been released to a “private location.” However, the Missouri Department of Conservation later said Bruno had been released into the wild, in a “suitable habitat outside the urban area.”

On June 10, the bear departed his native Wisconsin and crossed into Illinois. He briefly slipped into Iowa before returning to Illinois, spending much of the rest of the month wandering south through west-central Illinois — meanwhile acquiring the nickname “Bruno.”

Crowds of curiosity-seekers occasionally spooked Bruno, but he seemed to be on a determined search for a mate. Black bears vanished from Illinois and Iowa in the 19th century, so experts believe he was aiming for Missouri, which has a population of black bears, so much so the state is considering the legalization of hunting the species.

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In Illinois, police blocked off traffic on interstates to allow safe passage for Bruno. Much of his trip has been documented by a Facebook page, "Keeping Bruno Safe." The journey also has been followed by news media worldwide.

“We’re rooting for you, Bruno!” declared a Sunday headline in England’s Daily Mail. “Black bear who has traveled 400 miles across four states in search of a mate becomes an unlikely social media star.”

Follow Phil Luciano on Twitter: @LucianoPhil.

This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Bruno the bear tranquilized, moved to safety by Missouri officials