Speak up, dear.
Minnesota DNR
Speak up, dear.

Go to Northern Minnesota and you may be lucky enough to spot the oldest wild bear in the world, descriptively named No. 56. She’s only 39, but she’s had 26 kids, and by now her vision and hearing are going. Employees of Grand Rapids’ Department of Natural Resources are asking area hunters and residents to show a little mercy so she can die naturally — even though she’s the equivalent of the town wino:

Her gait is a little unsteady. When people see her they think she looks drunk. That’s because no one ever sees an old, old, old bear like that.

Awesome, 39 is “old, old, old”? Thanks for making me feel decrepit, bear police.

At least No. 56 is stylish. In the bear version of old ladies wearing purple, she’s outfitted in orange and yellow earrings (fine, ear tags) and a radio-collar necklace of bright orange tape. She’s probably on her way to a red hat party right now.

Why is her age such a big deal? Reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The average age of a bear killed by a Minnesota hunter is less than 4 years old…

Of the hundreds of bears that have been radio-collared and studied by the DNR over the past 32 years, the longest any survived was 23 years.

“Some bears in zoos have made it into their 40s,’’ [biologist Karen] Noyce said. “But in terms of a wild bear, one whose age has been documented and studied, no one has had a study bear over age 35.’’

Damn. But don’t get the idea that she’s aged like fine cheese:

No. 56 isn’t a large trophy bear, and 39-year-old bear meat isn’t appetizing.

“The meat wouldn’t be something I’d want to put on my dinner table,’’ Hansen said.

Besides, wouldn’t you feel bad if you shot a drunk, senile old bear with a necklace? Not very macho, hunters.