DULUTH - Solo, the one-eared black bear that slept under an Ely-area cabin last winter while humans argued over what to do with her, has died at the Michigan bear ranch where she and her cubs were shipped.
The bear, named Solo by cabin owners after another bear bit off one of her ears, never emerged from hibernation, said Dean Oswald, owner of Oswald's Bear Ranch near Newberry, Mich.
"I couldn't tell you why she didn't make it," Oswald said. "Sometimes their heart just doesn't hold up to it."
Solo's two cubs, which ranch workers named Cora and Caden, came out of hibernation and appear to be fine, he said.
Last fall, the hibernating Solo became the center of a controversy that pitted a group of bear-feeding cabin owners and a local bear researcher against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR argued that she had become a nuisance to some Eagles Nest Lake residents and should be killed because she'd lost her fear of humans. She and her cubs had hibernated under a cabin, whose owner wanted them removed.
But residents who liked having her around objected to the DNR's plans, and a group took up her cause. Finally, Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued a "reprieve," and wildlife managers arranged for the three bears to be shipped to the Michigan ranch.
There, the cubs and their mother were placed in separate enclosures and all three went back into hibernation. Oswald found Solo dead in early April in a pile of stumps where she had made her den.
Mike DonCarlos, the DNR's wildlife research and policy manager, said "it's not unheard of" for bears to die during hibernation. Oswald said that out of almost 50 bears that have lived on his ranch in the past 25 years, "a few" have died while hibernating.
Larry Oakes • 218-727-7344