CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sometime during the winter of 2010, a West Virginia black bear named Quagmire perished, likely from natural causes.
Depending on what month she died in, she was either 29 or 30 years old.
That's a long, long, loooong life for a bear.
Division of Natural Resources biologists, who had tracked Quagmire by radio since the early 1980s, marveled that the old sow lived as long as she did.
Now word comes from Minnesota of a bear that is 39 and still ticking.
Wildlife biologists in the Land of 1,000 Lakes recently visited the den of the radio-collared bear they call No. 56, and found her hibernating comfortably.
Sam Cook, the outstanding outdoors writer for the Duluth Tribune, accompanied biologists on the visit and wrote an entertaining account of it.
Cook interviewed biologist Dave Garshelis, who said No. 56 appears to have lived longer than any other wild bear.
"No known bears of any species have lived longer in the wild, based on age estimates from teeth taken from harvested bears," Garshelis, bear project leader for the Minnesota DNR, told Cook. "That includes more than 60,000 specimens just in Minnesota and at least a million overall."
The growth rings on one of No. 56's teeth, collected from her in 1981 when biologists captured her for the first time, indicated she was seven years old at the time. She's worn a radio collar ever since.
From that standpoint, No. 56's life has closely paralleled that of Quagmire.