Oldest known wild bear in the world lives in Minnesota [PHOTO]
Bear No. 56 was born during the Nixon administration -- all the way back in January 1974.
The oldest known wild bear in the world by a longshot lives in the woods near Marcell, Minnesota.
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She doesn't have a name, but is simply called Bear No. 56 by DNR officials. And at 39 years of age, she's six years older than any of the 60,000 bears included in an 2010 DNR study.
Dave Garshelis, leader of the DNR's bear project, told the Duluth News Tribune that "No known bears of any species have lived longer in the wild, based on age estimates from teeth taken from harvested bears."
That sample of harvested bears includes "more than 60,000 specimens just in Minnesota and at least one million overall," Garshelis continued. "It's just incredible that we happened to collar a bear that outlived all those bears."
Here's some more hard-to-believe facts from the News Tribune's report about Bear No. 56, whose age is known thanks to a radio collar and the number of rings on her teeth:
Since 1981, the DNR has radio-collared and tracked more than 550 black bears. The next-oldest bear in the agency's studies included two that reached age 23, one of them a granddaughter of No. 56. Another lived to age 20.
In teeth submitted by hunters from more than 60,000 harvested bears, only three lived past age 30, one of them to age 33, based on annual rings counted in those teeth, according to a 2010 DNR report.
"Half the females in Minnesota don't live past age 4," Garshelis said. "Only 5 percent make it to age 15."
A few bears in zoos have reportedly lived to their mid-40s, he said.
Bear No. 29 has given birth to just shy of 30 cubs, the last of them born 14 years ago.
Given her remarkable age, DNR officials are asking bear hunters not to shoot Bear No. 29, even though doing so would be legal in some circumstances. According to the Tribune, only 14 of more than 350 bears monitored until death by the DNR died of natural causes, with many of the others dying after they were hit by cars or killed by hunters.
Let's hope hunters heed the DNR's request and don't end Bear No. 56's life the same way they ended internet sensation Hope's back in the fall of 2011, when she was killed by a hunter who mistook her for another bear.
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