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The protagonist, possibly an uplifted or naturally evolved bear is in charge of a project to breach a barrier. This has kept all intelligent species from leaving the area. They eventually break through to discover a final message left by humans.

They have left the Earth to move out into space and were either responsible for the animal uplift in intelligence or acted responsibly when it naturally occurred.

They left Earth to allow the animals to develop naturally, uninfluenced by human activities.

I read this sometime in the 1970's, it may have been the first and longest story in an anthology.

Update: It is NOT "Day of Judgment" by Edmond Hamilton (1946). Update: I recall that the story ends just after they discover a final message left by humans. I think that the bear feels wonder that a species could be so altruistic

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    Sounds vaguely like Simak, City or A Heritage of Stars or something.
    – user2490
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 20:40
  • Thanks for both of those, I will read them presently. I have just skimmed the descriptions and neither are a match.
    – Seldon2k
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 21:03
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    City, a collection of short stories about intelligent speaking dogs investigating their origins, did have Jenkins the robot taking the last of the humans not in permanent Sleep to a parallel world, to give the dogs their chance at being the dominant race. It is the first thing I thought of, but that is the only match: there is no barrier. (Obviously for anyone but Jenkins moving to a parallel planet is a barrier, but there is no "barrier" in the story.) And no single animal, bear or dog, but a race of them. Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 2:26
  • The barrier reminds me a lot of David Brin's novella The Crystal Spheres, but in it, it is humans breaking through and discovering that ancient aliens once put these barriers (imprenetable from the outside) there to allow unevolved beings on various planets to evolve enough to break them. No bears. Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 7:05
  • @Seldon2k: City is excellent. IMO A Heritage of Stars is not one of his stronger works.
    – user2490
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 19:58

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