ST. LOUIS — Wildlife officials have relocated a black bear that had wandered into a St. Louis suburb and drew a crowd of hundreds curious to see the out-of-place animal.
The bear, dubbed “Bruno,” has been popular on social media pages for weeks as it plodded hundreds of miles from Wisconsin, through Illinois and briefly into Iowa before wandering into Missouri. More than 155,000 people have joined the Facebook group “Keeping Bruno Safe,” where fans have been taking and posting videos and pictures of his journey.
Wildlife officials said they were spurred to take action over the weekend when the bear found itself in the Wentzville city limits and corned between Interstate 70 and Interstate 40.
Word of the bear in the suburb spread, and a crowd of about 400 people gathered to see it.
“He just kept making his way farther west, which makes sense,” Amanda Good, Missouri state director of the Humane Society of the United States, told station KMOV. “I think he’s out of his normal range for a bear to go out looking for a mate, but we do know Missouri has black bear population south of I-44, mainly in southwest Missouri.”
Fearing for the safety of the bear and the public, conservation officers decided Sunday to tranquilize the bear and moved it to an undisclosed area outside of St. Louis.
“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,” MDC State Furbearer Biologist Laura Conlee said in a statement. “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.”
Conlee said that the bear’s large travel distance is pretty unusual. The MDC frequently receives reports of bears throughout the southern half of Missouri, where officials estimate there are between 540-840 bears.
Missouri’s bear population is growing approximately 9% annually and dispersing bears have appeared in the greater St. Louis area before, a trend that is likely to continue with the growing bear population, the MDC stated.