Space Invaders (Part 2)

Bruno the Bear photographed by Bradley Darnell

Well, our little raccoon friend is gone. As I reported last week, we made a call to an animal control specialist who showed up the next day and set some traps. We caught her the first night, and the following day she was relocated. I had gotten up early the morning after we baited the traps, and when I approached the garage, I could hear her talking and rattling the cage. The minute I stepped into the garage, she became silent and started shaking all over with fear. I told her I was sorry, but she needed to find a more suitable place to live.

The concern, of course, was that she’d had babies in the attic garage, but after a thorough examination, none could be found. This was a great relief because relocating a mother raccoon with tiny offspring would likely not end well. The stress of finding adequate protection for them on short notice in new surroundings would have been pretty tricky.

I’m glad things were resolved quickly, and I feel better about her being in a new place in the country. I think she will fare better.

I am reminded of another wild animal that showed up in our area about a year ago. Last June or July, folks in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas were visited by a black bear that wandered down from Wisconsin. Dubbed “Bruno,” he created quite a stir. While bears are common in Wisconsin and known to cross from Wisconsin into northern Iowa from time to time, Bruno was different. He just kept going and going further away from his home territory, in hot pursuit of who knows what. Bruno was first spotted wandering about in cornfields. Over time, he was so bold as to walk through towns, across people’s lawns, and zig-zag along highways and backcountry roads. People couldn’t believe it. He was a bear, where bears shouldn’t be, or at least a bear, where bears hadn’t lived for over 100 years.  

Bruno quickly became a media sensation, and people began tracking him, reporting his whereabouts on social media. A Facebook page called “Keeping Bruno Safe” was developed to provide the most up-to-date information on Bruno sightings. Bear biologists speculated that Bruno was a young male seeking to establish new territory. He likely became lost in his quest. Others thought he might be seeking a mate. 

Whatever his purpose was in making his long journey, his quest would take him across five states and over 1000 miles. He is perhaps a “record-breaking bear, in terms of the distance he covered.

At one point in Bruno’s journey, he crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri, heading straight for the greater St. Louis region. This was not good. Soon he got boxed into an industrialized zone with multiple lanes of high-speed traffic, train tracks, and utility areas. He became cornered in a fenced-in area with no other option but to exit into chaotic traffic and threatening conditions. Conservation officers and staff from the St. Louis Zoo had to tranquilize him and relocate him to an area of Missouri where there were known bear populations. The hope was that Bruno would find this suitable habitat. For a time, it appeared he might stay. But after only a week or so, he left Missouri and continued into Arkansas. There, Bruno found the perfect place and decided to over-winter there. And there, he remains to this day.

While Bruno may have taken some birdseed from feeders, strolled through a garden or two, or knocked over a garbage can here and there, no one complained about these things happening. Bruno found plenty of food in the forests and fields along his travels. He didn’t seem to mind people but knew to keep his distance. His biggest challenge was probably maintaining a safe distance from people who insisted on getting too close to him – forgetting he was a wild creature.

Over 100,000 people followed Bruno’s story. He moved and inspired them in the most unexpected ways. Why? As I said before, he was a bear, where bears shouldn’t be. He was a wild thing that had invaded our bear-free communities and spaces. But it was more than that. Bruno appeared just two months after the outbreak of Covid-19 hit our country. When schools and businesses were mandated to close, and life as we knew it became frightening and uncertain, a bear wandered by. People fell in love with him because he was oblivious to human troubles. He was natural and pure and symbolized hope for the future as he marched onward, searching for the perfect place he could be. Like us, he wanted no trouble but to be happy, healthy, free, and safe. Never did an animal have so many people praying for his safe journey.

Much has happened since Bruno visited the heartland – a world economic crisis, countless deaths to Covid-19, a presidential election, mass shootings, attacks on our U.S. Capitol. But Bruno still reminds us that “this too shall pass.” We must push forward, give our best efforts, and believe in positive possibilities.

Published by littleseedsread

Hello, my name is Julie Lerczak. For over twenty-five years I worked as an educator in a variety of art, history, and anthropology museums in Illinois, Iowa, and Virginia. Then, for the last five years of my career, I was an environmental educator. I am now retired and am pursuing my dream of being a children's book author. I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I live in Illinois with my husband Tom and our rescued pet turtle "Tootles." When I'm not writing stories I enjoy gardening, painting, making pottery, beekeeping, photography, hiking, and traveling.

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