MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A moose that wandered hundreds of miles away from its Northwoods habitat has died.

The Department of Natural Resources told WCCO the moose was found in the backyard of a home in Sleepy Eye, a place it had been hanging out for the last week and a half.

The animal stood about 7 feet tall and appeared healthy, but that all changed Thursday morning.

“Until last night, that one trip, it never got closer than that apple tree,” Leonard Wendinger said.

Leonard found the moose shortly after he woke up this morning.

He walked us out to the spot where he found the moose on its side.

“He was just laying flat down…just completely flat,” he said.

Tracks in the snow show the moose’s movements.

Leonard says an apple tree was its favorite hangout and perhaps its only food source.

“Yeah, he cleaned it up. High on the branches and everything. They were down [the branches]. It was so heavy from apples that bent way down,” he said, adding that the moose ate all the way around the tree and the apples that had fallen on the ground.

The DNR sent out a crew to retrieve the animal’s body and says it doesn’t appear it was hit by a car or shot.

Last weekend the moose did something unusual. He left. He took off through those trees and didn’t come back until Tuesday.

And then Wednesday, there was another change in his behavior.

The moose moved much closer to the Wendingers’ house.

“It never came up that close to the house. He could have come up on the porch. Like one of our daughter’s says, pretty soon it will be up on the porch like a dog, sleeping,” Verna, Leonard’s wife, chuckled.

Verna admits the family became attached to the long-legged visitor.

When asked if they would miss their guest, they said they would.

“Oh yes, I think I will. It was short lived but that was about the first thing we did every morning,” Verna said.

The DNR took the moose’s body to the U of M’s veterinary laboratory for a necropsy, an examination to determine the cause of death.

It will take a few weeks to get the results.

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