A man is dead and a woman has been left with horrific injuries after they were attacked by their pet deer in the north of Victoria on Wednesday.
Paul McDonald, 47, was understood to have been feeding the deer, which he had kept for two years, at his property in Moyhu, near Wangaratta in the state's north east, about 8.20am when the animal attacked.
Acting Senior Sergeant Paul Pursell told reporters that Mr McDonald entered an enclosure where he kept the deer — a cross between a red deer and an elk — this morning and was attacked.
He said Mr McDonald’s wife, Mandi, and son heard the commotion and went to see what was going on. The son then left to get help, but when he returned, he found his mother had been attacked as well as his father.
When police arrived, the deer was shot several times in order to protect a paramedic who was trying to save Mr McDonald.
Despite the best efforts from paramedics, the man died at the scene from critical injuries.
The woman suffered life-threatening upper-body and leg injuries and was treated by air ambulance.
She has since been flown to Alfred Hospital in Melbourne in a critical condition.
Mr Pursell said the family are “very traumatised” by what happened and locals in the small community are in shock.
“It’s an absolute tragedy,” he said. “The family is just devastated. It’s beyond words how they’ve been affected by this incident today.
“These are wild animals, whether they are out in the wild or kept as pets and their behaviour can be unpredictable.”
Mr McDonald’s brother told 9News that Mrs McDonald’s rushed to help her husband but was also attacked by the deer.
In 2013, Mr McDonald shared a picture of a family member feeding a deer on his Facebook page. “My boy,” the caption read, next to a smiling emoji.
“If you shoot my deer, i will legit shoot you,” a family member commented on the post. “He’s my baby.”
An Ambulance Victoria spokeswoman said the woman was in “quite a serious condition” when paramedics arrived.
According to a 2017 state government report there are as many as one million feral deer in Victoria, with species increasingly found in urban areas.
The government report also found deer are so well-established in the southern state it is now impossible to eradicate them. The only way forward is to control their spread.
Deer numbers swelled after Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, culminating in many regional councils writing to the state government last year and begging for a cull.
Licensed recreational hunters are allowed to shoot most deer species in Victoria due to their game classification.
The Invasive Species Council of Australia mourned the horrific attack, calling for a cull.
“Our biggest fears may have been realised, report just out that a Victorian man has been killed by a deer,” the council tweeted.
“We need hard heads to tackle this growing problem, not hard hooves.”
Victoria’s National Park Association has also been calling for a deer cull for years, comparing them to a more dangerous cane toad.
In July 2018, the association warned “deer have largely taken over most of Victoria’s prime natural areas in recent years”.
“They are trashing rainforest areas, mucking up our alpine region, chewing away at rare species in the Grampians — the list goes on. They are also impacting farms and creating havoc on our roads,” the association added.
Association spokesman Philip Ingamells later told The Age the state government would have to kill at least 400,000 deer a year to get the problem under control.
“They’re poised to take over the nation,” he said.
The tragic attack comes days after a different Australian animal killed a person.
A 75-year-old Florida man who was keeping a cassowary as a pet was killed by the giant bird last Friday.
“My understanding is that the gentleman was in the vicinity of the bird and at some point fell. When he fell, he was attacked,” Deputy Chief Jeff Taylor told the Gainsville Sun.
Police said the man was breeding cassowaries, that use their long claws to kill, when he fell over.
Cassowaries are large, flightless birds that are native to Australia and New Guinea similar to emus that stand up to 1.8 metres tall and weigh up to 60 kilograms with black body feathers and bright blue heads and necks.
The San Diego Zoo’s website calls cassowaries the world’s most dangerous bird with 10 centimetre, dagger-like claw on each foot.
“The cassowary can slice open any predator or potential threat with a single swift kick. Powerful legs help the cassowary run up to 50km/h through the dense forest underbrush,” the website says.