A cassowary, a rare emu-like bird, attacks and kills Florida man, fire official says

A cassowary, a giant bird with long claws on each foot, killed its owner after he fell in the backyard of his Gainesville, Florida, home Friday, according to Alachua County Fire Rescue.

The owner was a breeder of the rare bird that is native to Australia and New Guinea, Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Taylor said.

Details were slim, but it appears the man fell, and the cassowary attacked him after the fall, Taylor said.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission considers cassowaries Class II wildlife, meaning they pose a danger to humans and are subject to specific cage requirements. Owners must also have “substantial experience” with the animals, the commission says.

Class II is the same category as alligators, honey badgers and clouded leopards, while Class I includes more traditional predators such as a lions, tigers and bears.

The cassowary is a “large, flightless bird most closely related to the emu,” according to the San Diego Zoo. It can run up to 31 mph through dense underbrush, jump almost 7 feet into the air and is a skilled swimmer, so it can deftly fend off threats, the zoo says.

They can grow more than 5 feet tall and the heaviest females can weigh more than 160 pounds, the zoo says. Males weigh up to 120 pounds.

“The cassowary is rightfully considered the most dangerous bird in the world!” the zoo says. “Each 3-toed foot has a dagger-like claw on the inner toe that is up to 4 inches (10 centimeters) long! The cassowary can slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick.”