ELSBERRY, Mo. (KTVI) — A black bear spotted along a dirt road in Missouri on Wednesday night has turned out to be one that has now been seen in three states and built a social media following.
On Sunday, conservation authorities tranquilized the bear, known as Bruno, for its safety and that of the public, police said.
Bruno was first seen in Wisconsin on May 10, then crossed into Illinois a month later and is now in Missouri.
One Bruno fan said she just missed seeing him, but just barely.
“I was anxiously riding the country road, hoping to catch a glance,” said Tiffany Plate, of Illinois, adding that she stopped at a gas station on the way. “I walked back out, going on my merry way, and my friend was waving me down.”
She said her friend exclaimed to her, “You got to see him!”
“I said, ‘See who?’ said Plate. “She said, ‘The bear. Tifanny, he was literally right behind you when you got out of your Jeep.'”
Along Bruno’s way, people have been taking pictures of his journey and posting them in the Facebook group “Keeping Bruno Safe.” The group grew from 300 members to over 27,000 members in less than a week.
Some of the members of the group, which Plate has also joined, said its growth could be due to the fact that people are looking for someone or something to cheer on in 2020.
“This is the one positive thing that has come out of 2020, so far,” Plate said.
Dan Zarlenga, with the Missouri Department of Conservation, said they learned about Bruno a few days ago, advising the public at the time to report his location and give him his space.
“The big thing you don’t want to do is approach a bear, with this one or any other,” Zarlenga said. “You don’t want to threaten it in any way. You don’t want to corner it in any way. And, I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but you don’t want to feed it either.”
Zarlenga said it’s not uncommon for bears to travel across the state of Missouri. During this time of year, young male bears often travel to establish territory and find a mate.
Members of Bruno’s Facebook group said they were looking into whether the bear set a record for the longest migration by a black bear.