MARQUETTE - Michigan Department of Natural Resources biologists are investigating the odd occurrence of two moose found dead along roads Wednesday near Republic.
A dead cow moose was located by an area resident Wednesday morning along Marquette County Road LB. A yearling was found later in the day along County Road 478.
The mystery deepened when biologists discovered that not only were the two animals reported dead on the same day, but they were located within about 10 miles of each other and bore no evidence of being shot or struck by vehicles.
This moose calf was found dead Wednesday afternoon along Marquette County Road 478, west of the Greenwood Reservoir. A dead cow moose was found earlier in the day, about 10 miles away. The cause of death for both animals has not been determined. (Rod Wallberg photo)
"At first, they thought it could have been a poaching because they were so close together," said DNR spokeswoman Debbie Munson Badini in Marquette.
DNR conservation officers and biologists investigated the reports.
Rod Wallberg of Ishpeming Township found the calf while making newspaper deliveries Wednesday afternoon west of the Greenwood Reservoir. He said he just happened to spot the moose lying in a ditch as he drove.
"Just a couple of days before, I had seen some horses and donkeys and I thought it was a donkey lying there," Wallberg said. "There was no apparent damage, like it had been hit by a car."
Wallberg said he saw moose tracks in the dirt along the shoulder of the road and the animal was lying nearby.
"I was surprised and saddened finding this poor animal," Wallberg said.
From visual observations he made, including a distended stomach and the somewhat fresh tracks, Wallberg said he thought the moose had probably been there since sometime the day before.
He found the moose between 1 and 1:30 p.m. just east of County Road FQ.
"It wasn't a fully-grown moose," he said. "It didn't have any antlers."
DNR wildlife biologist Brian Roell inspected the cow and reviewed reports on the calf.
"We did see a pretty heavy tick load on both of them," Roell said.
Winter ticks have killed moose and in this case, could have worked in concert with liver flukes some other parasite or disease, Roell said. But biologists did not conclude ticks were the cause of death from their initial examinations.
Roell said the finding of two moose dead in the same day is out of the ordinary and there were no typical reasons moose are found dead at this time of year.
"We haven't seen any timing issues," Roell said. "We don't know what's going on with these animals."
A Minnesota DNR study found about a third of the 76 moose examined died from liver flukes, another 25 percent likely died from disease and starvation, while the cause of death for another quarter of the study animals remained unknown.
Poaching, accidents, brainworm and predation each claimed the lives of 7 percent or less of the moose in that study.
Another study, in northeastern Minnesota, concluded 58 percent of 87 moose deaths there were attributed to unknown causes, but likely health related. In that study, hunters shot 18 percent of the moose.
Among the "strange findings" in Minnesota research studies were some moose that appeared emaciated, but seemingly in otherwise good health that simply fell over and died in a phenomenon called "tipover disease."
The two moose found dead near Republic were carefully looked at and X-rayed to search for evidence of gunshots.
"Both moose were examined for external and internal injuries, abnormal bleeding, other signs of trauma and disease and nothing abnormal or suspicious was found," Badini said. "Tissue samples were sent to the wildlife disease laboratory in East Lansing for analysis."
Roell said the fact no foul play was suspected in the deaths of the moose will likely put the case on a low-priority status for the disease laboratory. He said it will likely be months before results are known.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.