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Oldest known bear in North America dies in Minnesota

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The world’s oldest-known wild bear has died of old age in northern Minnesota at the age of 39½, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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The bear was known to DNR researchers as Bear No. 56. A female American black bear, she was first captured and radio-collared in July 1981 by DNR scientists during the first summer of a long-term research project on bear population ecology.

The bear was 7 years old at the time and was accompanied by three female cubs.

Bear No. 56 became a significant animal in the DNR research project. During a 32-year study period, she and her many offspring provided an almost uninterrupted record of reproduction, survival, movements and aging within a single matriarchal lineage, researchers said. Data from this bear and her offspring have contributed significantly to the scientific literature on black bear biology, DNR officials said.

DNR researchers visited Bear No. 56 over the winter at her den in the Marcell area in Itasca County, north of Grand Rapids.

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