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Minnesota’s moose mystery

The cell phone alert was designed to wake anyone from a deep sleep. “MORTALITY EVENT DETECTED,” the text message read, accompanied by a cacophony of drums and bells blaring from the phone’s speaker at top volume. It was near midnight on May 22nd, but David Pauly wasn’t asleep; he knew this call was coming. Already he had received five alarms like it over the past month, announcing that a female moose wearing a GPS tracking collar and ear tag #075 hadn’t moved for at least six hours.

Usually, that’s enough to indicate that a moose is dead. But #075 was a survivor. Twice, her collar returned to normal status within a few hours of sending the mortality alert. The other three times, Pauly sent a field team into Minnesota’s North Woods in search of her carcass only to find the moose had rallied and moved on. But this time seemed different. Pauly had spent the previous few days examining movement data for #075 and monitoring her through a secure tracking site that showed hourly locations for GPS-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota; #075 had not moved much during that time—finally succumbing, it seemed, to illness or injury. She was among thousands within the region’s moose population stricken in the past few years, a calamity that has pushed the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to initiate the largest GPS study ever undertaken of moose deaths in the world.

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