April 14 (UPI) -- A 75-year-old Florida man was killed after he was attacked by a large, flightless bird he bred on his property, officials said.
Alachua County Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor said Marvin Hajos was attacked Friday night by a cassowary after he fell in the backyard of the property where he kept the animal, the Gainesville Sun reported.
"It looks like it was accidental," Taylor said. "My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked."
The investigation is ongoing, he said.
The cassowary, which is native to New Guinea and Australia, is considered the most dangerous bird in the world with dagger-like claws up to 4 inches in length that can "slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick," the San Diego Zoo said on its website, adding that it is also the second heaviest bird on the planet topping out at 167 pounds.
Deputies responded to the emergency call at around 10 p.m., police said, adding that the bird was secured on the property after their arrival.
Hajos was then transported to the hospital where he later died, Taylor said.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it was notified after the incident that Hajos was breeding the bird, which is allowed with a permit.
As a Class II Wildlife under the FWC, "substantial experience and specific cage requirements must be met" for a permit to be issued for handling these types of animals, FWC spokeswoman Karen Parker said.
But the Humane Society of the United States says that this incident is proof the bird should be considered a Class I, which are animals that "pose a significant danger to people" and are banned from the public exhibition and unless the animal was possessed before 1980, it is barred from ownership.
"Cassowaries are often kept with inadequate safety barriers, posing the risk of potential contact with the public," Humane Society of the United States Wildlife Protection Team member Nicole Paquette told UPI, adding that these birds "clearly belong in Florida's Class 1 category of species ... and we urge the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission to update its standards."
Hajos had two of the birds along with other exotic animals on his property, WCJB reported.
The fate of the birds will be decided by whoever takes control over the farm, said Lt. Joshua Crews of the sheriff's office.
"Right now, I think it's going to be up to the people that end up taking the property, so family members and what they do with that," he said. "What they do with the bird is going to be ultimately their decision."