Xena – the oldest known black bear in Utah – died in June at the age of 31. According to a report by UB Media, she was a part of a cooperative study by Dr. Hal Black, a Brigham Young University wildlife biologist, and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The study monitored black bear reproduction.

The bear has worn a GPS collar for the last 27 years. UDWR wildlife biologist, Clint Sampson, received a mortality signal from the collar in mid-June. He found her body near her den in the book cliffs. He did a necropsy to confirm she died of natural causes and sent her femur bones and teeth to Black for further testing.

While bears in captivity can live upwards of  40 years, most wild black bears only live to be about 10. Dr. Black says even a 25-year-old bear would be considered an old bear in Utah. The oldest known wild bear came from Minnesota. That bear was also part of a black bear ecology study and had been tracked with a GPS collar. She died at 40 years old. Before that, the record was held by a brown bear from Alaska that died at 34.


Xena in her den
Photo Credit: UB Media

Throughout her life, Xena had 8 litters which totaled 22 cubs. In her first 23 years of life, she had 1 set of quads, 4 sets of triplets, and 3 sets of twins. Of the 130 bears studied, she was the only one to raise quads to adulthood.

Xena had been tranquilized and studied during hibernation 29 times over the years. She was last examined in March of this year. Black said he had never seen a bear in such poor condition. She was very thin, missing most of her teeth, and appeared to have cataracts. They reported she only weighed about 110 pounds at that time.

All in all, Xena has a pretty amazing story. What questions do you have about the oldest black bear in Utah?

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