World's oldest wild bear dies of old age in northern Minn. - KMSP-TV

World's oldest wild bear dies of old age in northern Minn.

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

The world's oldest-known wild bear called northern Minnesota home and has passed away at the ripe age of 39 ½.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Bear No. 56 died of old age. A female American black bear, she was captured and fashioned with a radio collar in July 1981 during the first summer of a bear population ecology research project. Bear No. 56 was 7 years old at the time, and had three female cubs.

She made significant contributions to the research project during her lengthy life in the woods. From 1981 to 1995, she produced eight litters of cubs and raised 21 of the 22 until they reached 1 ½ years of age. She had her last cub at age 25.

The DNR has been following 360 bears via radio collar, and Bear No. 56 outlived all of them by 19 years. She also outlived any radio-collared bear of any species in the world.

The second oldest was a brown bear that reached age 34.

Researchers attribute her long life to her forested home with few people and few major roads, her aversion to humans and also, quite frankly, luck.

The DNR requests hunters do not shoot collared bears, and they abided by the request despite Bear No. 56's visits to their bait.

There were no signs of struggle or injury at the site of her death.

"We knew she was getting feeble," DNR bear researcher Karen Noyce said. "It would have been sad to find her on the side of the road somewhere, hit by a car. After following her all these years, I'm glad to know she died peacefully. It was a fitting death for a fine old bear."

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