The wandering moose spotted chomping on apples at a farm in Sleepy Eye last week was found dead, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Thursday.
The yearling bull, who likely traveled down from Canada, was found dead in someone's yard, MPR News reports. No further details are available, but the DNR plans to perform an autopsy.
The moose got a lot of attention last week because he wandered so far from home. DNR officials told the Mankato Free Press it's odd for a moose to end up in southern Minnesota, but it's not unusual for a young male moose to leave his place of birth.
Moose waning in Minnesota
According to DNR information on Minnesota’s moose populations, spotting one of the animals isn’t just unusual in the southern part of the state – it may be unusual all over.
In a document from 2013, the DNR states it halted moose hunting in Minnesota as the population had dropped 52 percent from 2010. The department wrote that the population in 2013 was 2,760 moose – down from a peak of 8,840 in 2006.
The department says the reasons for the sharp decline are unclear, ruling out hunting and predation by wolves as a major factor. According to the document, research into the phenomenon is underway, but early signs seem to indicate health- and stress-related factors.