Large exotic bird kills Alachua County man

Courtesy: WCJB
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By: Wyatt Turbeville | WCJB
April 15, 2019

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- An Alachua County man is dead after he was attacked by an exotic bird he was keeping on his property.

The bird, called a cassowary, is large and similar to an ostrich or an emu. The cassowary is sometimes called "the most dangerous bird in the world."

75-year-old Marvin Hajos had two of them, along with a variety of other exotic animals on his property. Alachua County sheriff's deputies say the man was breeding the rare birds.

Alachua County deputies responded to the call on Friday morning, said Lieutenant Joshua Crews. EMS responded to an incident where the caller gave information that an exotic bird had attacked somebody on the property.

"I didn't know there were many in private hands, just shocking you know," said Andrew Kratter, who manages the bird collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History. "I've heard that they're dangerous but I always thought it was almost an urban myth that they were capable of killing a person."

The birds were corralled before deputies arrived, but Hajos died from his injuries later at the hospital.

"Cassowaries are native to Australia and Papua New Guinea and as somebody who actually lived in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea for ten years as a child I can tell you from first-hand experience that we were always told there are two animals that you simply do not mess with because of their violent and aggressive nature. The first is a wild boar and the second is a cassowary," said TV20's reporter Landon Harrar, who lived in Papua New Guinea.

"Apparently they can be pretty aggressive if they feel threatened and they have this nasty toe that they can kick with and as you can see it's a fairly fearsome weapon for them," Kratter added.

"They have very strong legs, kick defense, claws that can literally gut you because they can jump over 4 feet in the air and that can hit anybody in the mid-section," said Christine Janks, an animal conservationist and educator for Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation.

As to what will happen to the birds?

"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. What they do with the bird is going to be ultimately their decision," said Lieutenant Crews.

In a phone conversation with an official from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, it was confirmed to TV20 that there is no permit required to breed cassowaries in Florida. Since there is no permit required to breed the birds, Hajos was not breaking the law.

On the FWC website, cassowaries are classified as Class II Wildlife.

"Class II wildlife can also pose a danger to people," the website reads. "Substantial experience and specific cage requirements must be met."

The website goes on to mandate that permits are required for exhibition, sale and personal possession of Class II wildlife, like cassowaries. The FWC official TV20 spoke with made the distinction between personal possession and breeding, saying the fact that the birds were being bred negated the need for a permit.

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