The Alachua County Fire Rescue Department says that a large, flightless bird that is native to Australia and New Guinea attacked and killed its 75-year-old owner when he fell on Friday.
Officials with the department say the cassowary likely used its long claws to kill the man at his property near Gainesville.
State wildlife officials believe that the man was breeding the birds.
The man, identified as Marvin Hajos, was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Lieutenant Brett Rhodenizer says, “Initial information indicates that this was a tragic accident for Mr. Hajos. The cassowary involved remains secured on private property at this time,” as the investigation continues.
Cassowaries can be up to 6 feet tall and weigh up to 130 pounds. They have black body feathers and distinct, bright blue heads and necks.
The San Diego Zoo’s website claims that cassowaries are the world’s most dangerous bird, largely due to their four-inch, dagger-like foot claws. The site adds, “The cassowary can slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick. Powerful legs help the cassowary run up to 31 mph through the dense forest underbrush.”
In order to obtain a mandatory permit, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission requires that cassowary owners have “substantial experience” and meet specific cage requirements. Commission Spokeswoman Karen Parker adds that her agency describes the cassowary as a kind of wildlife that can “pose a danger to people.”