Family says Alaska photographer killed in moose attack knew the risks and died doing what he loved

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska man’s family fatally attacked by an enraged moose trying to protect his newborn twin calves, he said he was a nature photographer who knew the risks of taking photographs in the wild and died doing what he loved.

Although there have been some calls to kill the moose, Dale Chorman’s family does not want it killed because it was only protecting its calves.

Chorman, 70, and a friend were trying to find the moose and calves to photograph Sunday when the moose ran out of the brush, said Chorman’s friend Tom Kizzia, an author and journalist from Homer, Alaska.

“They both turned to run, and the friend looked back and saw Dale lying on the ground with the moose on top of him,” Kizzia told The Associated Press by phone.

“There was no obvious trampling and they didn’t see any signs of trauma when they recovered his body,” he said. “I think the medical examiner will try to find out exactly what happened, whether it was a single blow in the wrong place or something like that.”

The friend sought help and when medics arrived, Kizzia said the moose had vanished back into the woods.

Chorman’s son, Nate Spence-Chorman, posted on social media that Dale was “a loving husband to Dianne, a great father to me and (as you know) a fantastic friend to many.”

The fatal attack occurred on Chorman’s 3-acre (1.2-hectare) property just east of Homer, where elk give birth each spring in a dense forest of alder and elder thickets.

Chorman was a builder and carpenter by trade, but he also loved being around wildlife. He was a naturalist, an avid bird watcher and a wildlife guide who loved to share photographs of himself.

“This wasn’t some hapless fool who stumbled into danger; this was a person who went out in search of a great photo, knowing the risks, and got caught in a dangerous moment,” his son wrote.

The moose should not be killed, Spence-Chorman wrote. “The ungulate mother does not need to die. She was only protecting her offspring.”

Although the death was tragic, Spence-Chorman said his father would have accepted this outcome.

“The truth is that he died doing what he loved,” he wrote.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game typically receives reports of aggressive or unusual moose behavior, said Cyndi Wardlow, regional supervisor for the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“In this case, we’re obviously very concerned about public safety,” he said.

“If there was an animal that was behaving in a way that continued to pose a threat to public safety, then we could possibly euthanize it, but we’re not going to go down that route specifically,” he said.

Wardlow encouraged everyone, including the many summer tourists who are just beginning to arrive in Alaska, to be aware of wildlife and their surroundings.

In the case of elk, the largest of the deer family, small adult females can weigh up to 360 kilograms (800 pounds) and males twice as much. They can also measure up to 1.8 meters (6 feet) tall at the shoulder.

It is estimated that there are up to 200,000 moose in Alaska.

This is the second fatal moose attack in Alaska in the last three decades.

In 1995, a 71-year-old man was mauled to death by a moose as he tried to enter a building on the campus of the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Witnesses said the students had been throwing snowballs and harassing the moose and her calf for hours, and the animals became agitated when the man tried to walk past them.

Dale Chorman grew up in Painesville, Ohio, but hitchhiked to Alaska in the 1980s, his son said in an email to the AP. He traveled widely, spending time in America, Europe, Asia and visiting Antarctica.

He met his wife, Dianne, when she came to Alaska to see bears and he was a guide at a nearby river lodge.

Chorman’s professional guiding work focused primarily on grizzly bear photography, but he was passionate about all wildlife, especially birds, his son said. He could identify many species of birds by their songs alone and sometimes taught “birding by ear” classes on Homer.

Homer is located on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, about 220 miles (355 kilometers) south of Anchorage.