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It's not a sight you see every day, especially if you live as far south as Sleepy Eye, Minnesota: a moose grazing for apples in your backyard.
After letting the moose – a yearling bull – loiter for a few days on their farm, owners Leonard and Verna Wendinger called the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, who found the Wendingers' guest as unusual as they did, according to a Facebook post from the Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch.
Officials from the DNR's New Ulm Office, who visited the farm and took pictures of the animal, are quoted by the Mankato Free Press as saying it's strange for a moose to travel so far south.
“Certainly, it’s an odd place for one to show up, but it’s not at all unusual for a young male to leave its place of birth,” one of the officials said. “Sometimes, they end up in spots they shouldn’t be.”
The DNR representatives said the animal is likely from Canada, but it's still unclear why he might have wandered so far away from home – the moose couldn't be held for questioning, as he evaded agents when they approached him.
The DNR told the Wendingers their young loiterer will move on from their property if left alone.
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% from 2010. The department wrote that the population as of last year 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.