A young moose far from its species' typical territory was found dead Thursday in the south-central Minnesota town of Sleepy Eye. The animal had been seen near town recently, appearing quite content at a farmstead, a conservation official said.

The 1 ½-year-old male was found in a yard, said Lou Cornicelli, research manager for the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Cornicelli said there was "no obvious trauma" to suggest how the moose died.

The carcass was on its way to the University of Minnesota for further examination to determine what killed it, Cornicelli said.

"It was certainly outside where it should be," the DNR official said, "but it's certainly not the first. They occasionally do this. Young males of most species disperse" from where they were born.

Last week, the moose ambled onto a farmstead northeast of Sleepy Eye and took a liking to munching on apples.

The DNR said moose also lately have been spotted south of Rochester, near Marshall and just outside of Ortonville in far western Minnesota.

Moose in Minnesota are nearly all concentrated in the northeastern part of the state. The DNR's most recent tally in that area put the population at roughly 4,350. In 2006, the DNR count topped 8,800. The agency has no firm explanation for the decline.

Paul Walsh