Karen Noyce set the frequency on her radio-telemetry receiver and pointed its antenna into the pines of Chippewa National Forest near Marcell last week. Noyce heard high-pitched intermittent chirps.
South of us, the oldest known wild bear in the world — 39 years old — was resting peacefully in her den,
Noyce began walking south, along with Dave Garshelis, the DNR’s bear project leader.
“No known bears of any species have lived longer in the wild, based on age estimates from teeth taken from harvested bears,” Garshelis said. “(That includes) more than 60,000 specimens just in Minnesota and at least a million overall.”
Several hundred yards from the road, we could see the den.
And, there, under an upturned stump with roots dangling from a 15-by-15-inch opening, was the bear that biologists call No. 56. She stirred slowly. In hibernation, Garshelis said, bears remain drowsy, body temperature falls from 99 to about 90 degrees, their heart beats more slowly, becoming intermittent.