Brutus is among the most unusual rescue animals
to change someone’s life
While still in his 20s, animal rehabilitator and trainer Casey Anderson adopted a baby grizzly bear and ended up building the Montana Grizzly Encounter sanctuary (grizzlyencounter.org) to house him. Following is an excerpt from The Story of Brutus, published in 2010 by Pegasus Books and reprinted with permission. Don’t try this at home, folks.
Brutus is a special bear, and he knew it from the start. From the time he was a cub I could see the special gift that Brutus possesses. He has an ability to engage people unlike that of any creature, wild or domesticated, that I have ever seen. Being cute, paired with his funny, charismatic personality, has caused people to fall in love with him over and over again. Brutus was born to be the bridge between the human world and the wild world.
Brutus was born at a wildlife park that was overpopulated. Space was at a premium. Unfortunately, once a bear
is born into captivity, it can never be released into the wild. In Brutus’s case he had only one option, euthanization, a practice that is common in many wildlife facilities that need population control. I could not let this happen to Brutus. I felt compelled to scoop him up and be his champion.
The night we decided when Brutus would make his break from the wildlife park was the Fourth of July, Independence Day. How fitting. With the help of the family of my colleague Ami, we constructed a chain-link dog kennel
from Wal-Mart in their garage that was going to be his home until we found the next place. We brought Brutus home, and I remember unloading him into the kennel with a proud smile on my face as I thought about the new life that lay ahead of us. Our first moment spent together on our own involved my watching him destroy in just one minute the dog kennel that we had spent a couple of days constructing. Now what were we going to do?
We had rented a U-Haul truck to bring him over, so I spent the first night with Brutus in the back of the truck, with him screaming at the top of his lungs, jumping on my face, and terrorizing me all through the night. I remember
waking to the smell of bear crap, cracking open the door, putting his leash on, and walking him around the yard, having not slept one minute all night. I lay in the sun with a leash tied around my wrist and fell asleep while Brutus cuddled next to me and took a nap. I knew that keeping a grizzly bear was tough, but now I had no other choice.
I worked out an agreement with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to keep Brutus temporarily at my dad’s house, but in order to bring Brutus from Idaho to Montana, I needed to get a health certificate. I had no real way to transport Brutus, so I borrowed a rusty horse trailer to drive him down to a nearby vet. The horse trailer had large window openings that I was a little worried about. At nearly 85 pounds Brutus was quite a fat little boy, so I put some simple barriers of plywood connected with heavy wire over the openings and figured that should do the trick.
As I was driving down the highway at 55 miles an hour, I’ll never forget the way I felt when I looked in my rearview mirror and there was half a grizzly bear hanging out of that horse trailer. I kept up my speed in hopes that that
would be enough of a deterrent to keep him from jumping. As I pulled into the driveway I remember all the big wide
eyes looking out of the vet’s office. As the trailer slowed down, Brutus leapt from it and started running around the parked cars. I, too, leapt from the car, chasing him around and finally putting on his leash. I remember how foolish I felt as I walked toward the door with everybody staring in astonishment as I tried to make it seem as if I had everything under control.
The actual health inspection went very well, thankfully. Brutus awed the vet and the staff by being Mr. Charming,
doing somersaults and making cute bear noises. Now I needed to figure out a way to get him home. I knew there was no way to fix the rusty old horse trailer, so the only option I had was for him to ride in the front seat of the old Dodge pickup truck alongside me. I loaded him in the front seat and walked around to the driver’s side. I pointed my finger at him and said, “You’d better stay right there.” I wasn’t worried. What could possibly go wrong?
We headed down the highway once again, with Brutus turning the windshield wipers on and off, changing radio stations every second, and constantly adjusting the volume. I kept readjusting the rearview mirror until Brutus finally bit it off. I was pushing him with my right hand while trying to steer with my left as I screamed at the top of my lungs to try to intimidate him, but to very little avail. Brutus thought he had died and gone to heaven. He got to be with his daddy in a confined area and see some of Idaho’s most beautiful scenery, while listening to various radio stations and playing with all the knobs and buttons. To add insult to injury, he then decided to pee all over the front seat. An 85-pound grizzly can piss about half a gallon. The last thing I was going to do was stop the car and prolong this already nightmarish trip. I drove as fast as I could while fighting a happy grizzly bear off in the front seat. I’ll never forget a few passing vehicles whose occupants witnessed the whole thing. I remember getting home, absolutely exhausted, and in typical male fashion calling Ami and saying, “Come get your kid!”
Anderson went on to host National Geographic Wild’s Expedition Grizzly. Search for “Brutus the Grizzly” on YouTube to see how thoroughly Anderson’s bear has won human hearts and minds.