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GLIN==>> Plane crash claims lives of moose researcher and pilot

Posted on behalf of Rich Greenwood <Rich_Greenwood@fws.gov>

For Immediate Release: June 14, 1999
Contact: Dan Sobieck, External Affairs 612/713-5403
EA99-25; Dan_Sobieck@fws.gov
Margaret Anderson, Agassiz NWR, 218/449-4115


A plane crash Friday, June 11, claimed the lives of two wildlife researchers
while conducting an aerial moose telemetry survey over the Red Lake Wildlife
Management Area (WMA) near Baudette, Minnesota.

Killed in the crash were Eric Cox, 29, a Ph.D. candidate who headed the
northwest Minnesota Moose Research Project since its inception in 1996, and
DNR pilot and Conservation Officer Grant Coyour, 43.  The aircraft was a
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Piper Cub.

Cox, who lived on-site at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service)
National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and the DNR's Red Lake WMA during the
project, worked closely with both Service and Minnesota DNR researchers and
biologists to determine the cause of the declining northwest Minnesota moose

"This is terrible news," said Service Regional Director Bill Hartwig in
Minneapolis.  "Our hearts go out to the families of these two men.  Field
work and
research are the cornerstones of wildlife management.  Despite all the
precautions taken, we are at times reminded that this work involves some
risk.  Both Eric and Lieutenant Coyour accepted those risks to continue
their important
work.  However, that doesn't lessen the shock of their deaths."

A Michigan native and University of Idaho graduate student, Cox was in the
process of completing the field work portion of the moose study, which was
to be included as part of his doctoral dissertation. The next phase of his
work was to include an analysis of the data gathered from over three years
of moose research.  This research involved tracking moose fitted with
electronic collars, collecting blood and tissue samples, determining
parasite impacts and analyzing
the animal's nutritional requirements.  Wolf and bear predation were
as major factors in the population decline based on early research results.

"This was a very important project, and we will follow through on Eric's
research," said Service Manager Margaret Anderson at Agassiz NWR.  "The data
is there
and we know Eric would want us to see this through.  Many people in the
Service, DNR and local community have contributed to this project and we are
very close to some answers based on Eric's work."

"Eric demanded a lot of himself and of those who worked with him," Anderson
added.  "And many of those who worked with him on this moose project,
especially the volunteers, have used their experience working with him to
launch their own careers in wildlife.  He will be missed by many, both for
his contributions to this project and because of his tremendous potential.
Eric had
much to offer the wildlife community."

While conducting the moose research, Cox worked under the guidance of
staff biologist Gary Huschle and DNR Manager Gretchen Mehmel.  The joint
moose research partnership between the Service and DNR allowed Cox to take
advantage of the facilities and expertise provided by both agencies.
Because the moose involved in the study resided on the federally- owned
Agassiz NWR, the state-owned Red Lake WMA, and on nearby private land, this
federal-state partnership was critical to the success of the research
effort.  The cooperation of local landowners was equally important.

Due to the large acreage involvedBover 700,000 acres spread over a large
geographic area--tracking the moose by airplane was a necessity.  It was
also an activity Cox and veteran pilot Coyour had done many times since the
inception of the research project.  The use of airplanes is a common
practice in the Service for wildlife research.

The cause of the crash has not yet been determined.  Officials of the
Transportation Safety Board and DNR have recovered the plane and are
continuing the investigation.

Funeral services for Cox will be held in his hometown of Harbor Springs,
Michigan.  His family has requested his remains be cremated and ashes spread
over the Red Lake WMA.  A local memorial service at the Red Lake WMA is also
planned in the future.

Services for Coyour will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16, at St.
John's Lutheran Church in Springfield, Minnesota.   A memorial service for
Coyour will be held on Thursday, June 17, at the Hope Lutheran Church in
Moose Lake, Minnesota at 6:30 p.m.