Florida Man attacked and killed by pet Cassowaries. Becomes first human killed by the species since 1926.
There will be colorful macaws, lithe lemurs and cackling Kookaburras for sale at an event billed by organizers as “the dispersal of the animal estate of Marvin Hajos.” But the animal that is likely to get the most attention is the giant bird that killed a Florida Man this month.
That bird — a hulking, flightless cassowary with a daggerlike claw on each foot — will go up for auction on Saturday alongside about one hundred other exotic animals that this Florida Man, 75, kept on his property near Gainesville, Fla. (Several other cassowaries are also slated to go on the auction block.)
FM fell between two cassowary pens on April 12 and was attacked through the fence by at least one of the birds, said Jeff Taylor, the deputy chief of Alachua County Fire Rescue. When rescue workers arrived they found him grievously injured on the ground between the two pens. An angry bird stood in one of the pens.
“A couple of people from our crew had to dodge the bird themselves,” Mr. Taylor said. “The bird was obviously agitated and was trying to come at them through the fence, but they were quick enough to get themselves out of the way of the bird.”
Cassowaries are emu-like birds that can stand up to six and a half feet tall. They have an almost prehistoric appearance. Their bright blue faces are topped with a hornlike ridge and their bodies, which can weigh up to 130 pounds, are covered with dark feathers. Their two muscular legs each sport one dangerous claw up to five inches long.
“My understanding is these birds are fairly shy around humans but if they are provoked or they have an opportunity they will be very aggressive,” Mr. Taylor said. “It may be they saw him fall and had an opportunity and decided to attack.”
Cassowaries have a violent reputation but human fatalities appear to be rare. According to Scientific American, the last recorded cassowary-on-human killing happened in April 1926, when a bird slit the throat of a 16-year-old boy in Australia who had fallen while running from it.
The birds are indigenous to Australia and Southeast Asia, not Florida. The authorities in Alachua County on Tuesday expressed almost universal surprise at both their presence in the county and their role in a local death. FM’s son did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.
Bill Grotjahn, who investigated the death for the Medical Examiner’s Office, said the Florida Man had died from trauma inflicted by the bird. He called it “such an unusual situation.”
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years and I’ve never had a thing like this,” he said. “I’ve had them killed by alligators and snakes but never by a bird like that. I know ostriches and emus have their moments, but cassowaries are an extremely, extremely dangerous bird. You don’t want to fool around with them. They have no sense of humor.”
Mr. Grotjahn said he heard that Mr. Hajos might have gone to the cassowary pens on the day he died to check on their eggs.
“The female cassowary, which is the larger of the two birds, saw he was messing with the eggs and you know how that goes,” he said. “It is like a bear protecting their young.”
It was not clear why the bird that killed FM was not put down after the attack.
In an email, Rob Klepper, a spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said cassowaries were considered “Class II wildlife and can pose a threat to humans.” But he said the Florida Man did not need a permit for his cassowaries because he “employed an agricultural exemption for his possession of cassowaries for agricultural use.”
Mr. Klepper said they could be bred for meat, eggs and live animal sales.
The organizers of the animal auction, Gulf Coast Livestock Auction, said it would be open to the public. But on Facebook they said the news media would be barred from the event and risked the destruction of their equipment if they tried to attend it.
“There will be no videoing in any part of portion in whole of this auction,” the group wrote. “Anyone seen video taping in any capacity will be deemed trespassing and will be escorted out by security. Your video equipment may or may not be confiscated until all video recordings are destroyed.”
Jammi Wilson, the group’s office manager, said Mr. Hajos’s family had asked them not to release any information to the news media.
“I’m sure you’re looking for the cassowaries, right?” she asked a reporter on Tuesday. “We’re not releasing any answers or releasing any news releases or making any statements.”
Ms. Wilson said the group organized Saturday’s auction because Mr. Hajos wanted the animals to be sold after his death. Elsewhere on the group’s Facebook page, condolences poured in for the Hajos family. A video posted there showed a man identified as Mr. Hajos riding a camel on a gravel parking lot under a cloudy sky last February.
“He was a great friend,” Ms. Wilson said. “This was a total accident.”
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There will be colorful macaws, lithe lemurs and cackling Kookaburras for sale at an event billed by organizers as “the dispersal of the animal estate of Marvin Hajos.” But the animal that is likely to get the most attention is the giant bird that killed a Florida Man this month. That bird — a hulking, flightless cassowary with a…