Alaska photographer killed by cow moose knew the risks, family says

“This wasn’t a helpless idiot running into danger – this was someone going out looking for a great photo, knowing the risks, and walking into a dangerous moment.”

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The family of an Alaska man who was fatally attacked by an angry moose trying to protect his newborn twin calves said he was a wildlife photographer who knew the risks of photographing in the wild and what it was he loved died.

Although there have been some calls to kill the moose, Dale Chorman's family does not want the moose euthanized as they only wanted to protect their calves.

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Chorman, 70, and a friend were trying to find the moose and calves to photograph them Sunday when the moose burst out of the undergrowth, 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 standing over him,” Kizzia told The Associated Press by phone.

“There was no obvious trampling and later, when they recovered his body, they saw no signs of trauma,” he said. “I think the coroner will try to find out exactly what happened, whether it was just a single blow in the terribly wrong place or something like that.”

The friend sought help, and when the paramedics arrived, Kizzia said the moose had already disappeared back into the forest.

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 three-acre property east of Homer, where moose give birth each spring in a dense alder and elder forest.

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Chorman was a construction worker and carpenter by trade, but also loved the outdoors. He was a naturalist, avid birdwatcher and wildlife guide who enjoyed sharing his photographs with others.

“This was not an unfortunate idiot who stumbled into danger – this was a human being who went out in search of a great photo, knew the risks and walked into a dangerous moment,” his son wrote.

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

Although the death was tragic, Spence-Chorman said his father would have accepted the 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, a regional manager for the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“In this case, we are obviously very concerned about public safety,” she said.

“If there was an animal that was behaving in a way that continued to pose a threat to public safety, then we could potentially euthanize the animal, but we don't specifically pursue that route,” she said.

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Wardlow urged everyone, including the many summer tourists just arriving in Alaska, to pay attention to wildlife and their surroundings.

In moose, the largest members of the deer family, small adult females can weigh up to 360 kilograms, while males weigh twice as much. They can also reach a height of up to 1.8 meters 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 moose trampled a 71-year-old man to death as he attempted to enter a building on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. Witnesses said students threw snowballs and harassed the moose and its calf for hours, and the animals became agitated when the man attempted 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 and Asia and visiting Antarctica.

He met his wife Dianne when she came to Alaska to watch bears and he was guiding at a nearby river cabin.

Chorman's professional guiding focused primarily on brown bear photography, but he had a passion for all wildlife, especially birds, his son said. He could identify many species of birds by their calls alone and sometimes taught “Bird Watching by Ear” in Homer.

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

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