A large, flightless bird native to Australia and New Guinea attacked and killed its owner on a farm in Florida, according to authorities.
The man, identified by police as 75-year-old Marvin Hajos, raised cassowaries and was injured after falling on a path near their enclosure Friday, according to Alachua County Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor. Paramedics found Hajos just after 10 a.m. on Friday and transported him to the hospital where he died of his injuries, police said.
“Our crews worked very hard to give the victim the best chance possible at survival,” Taylor said via email.
There were two birds onsite but Taylor said it’s unclear whether they both participated in the attack.
Cassowaries are similar to emus and stand up to 6 feet tall and weigh up to 130 pounds, with black body feathers and bright blue heads and necks. The San Diego Zoo’s website calls cassowaries the world’s most dangerous bird with a four-inch, dagger-like claw on each foot.
“The cassowary can slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick. Powerful legs help the cassowary run up to 31 miles per hour through the dense forest underbrush,” the website says.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lists cassowaries along with animals such as alligators, clouded leopards and wolverines as Class II wildlife because they can “pose a danger to people.” Owners must have a permit and “substantial experience and specific cage requirements must be met.”
Police spokesperson Lt. Brett Rhodenizer said the cassowary involved is currently secured on private property.
“Sheriff’s Office personnel will continue their investigation, and may coordinate with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) if necessary as the case progresses,” Rhodenizer said. “Initial information indicates that this was a tragic accident for Mr. Hajos and his family.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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