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Tue., March 5, 2013, 6:02 a.m.

39-year-old black bear ready to emerge from den

WILDLIFE -- Minnesota wildlife biologists have a long history with the oldest wild black bear known to be roaming free in the woods (videoed in her den, above).

Tagged No. 56 by researchers in 1981, the the 39-year-old sow is still in her winter den in the Chippewa National Forest.

According to the Duluth News Tribune, No. 56 has outlived virtually all of the 550 black bears the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources collared and tracked in the past four decades.

In addition to the research data, she's also produced about 28 cubs in her lifetime, with her last litter at the twilight age of 25. Nowadays, the old girl is no longer in the mood for parenting or exhaustive courtships, researchers say.

In the summer before denning this winter, No.56 mostly meandered around the forest and took a lot of long naps.  Although she had recently lost some weight and a few teeth, biologists say she’s still in pretty good health.

March is the month bears normally begin emerging from their dens In the Rocky Mountains. Males generally are the first to come out. Sows with cubs usually emerge weeks later.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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