Sept. 13 (UPI) — Authorities in Australia say that an elderly man was killed this week by a kangaroo he’d been keeping as a pet — in the country’s first deadly kangaroo attack in more than 80 years.
Officials said the 77-year-old man had been keeping the kangaroo at his home in Redmond, a small town in far southwestern Australia located about 250 miles southeast of Perth. It’s right on the coast of the Great Australian Bight.
A relative later found the man seriously injured. After the attack, authorities said, the kangaroo prevented emergency medics from getting close to the man to treat him — forcing police to shoot and kill the animal.
“The kangaroo was posing an ongoing threat to emergency responders,” authorities said in a statement, according to The Independent.
Harboring native species as pets is restricted but not illegal in Australia.
Experts say that kangaroos — the wild, bouncing animal that’s synonymous with Australia — almost never attack humans. In fact, the last time someone was killed by a kangaroo in Australia was 1936. He’d received serious head injuries and a broken jaw.
The type of wounds the elderly man received in this week’s attack were not immediately known.
Australia’s western grey kangaroo is relatively small in stature, averaging about 120 pounds and 4 feet in height. The animals appear cute and docile, but experts are reminding people that they are wild, built for fighting and can be especially hostile at times.
“I’ve seen it … male kangaroos taking each other on and fighting,” Hayley Shute, a scientist at Australian Reptile Park, said according to The Independent.
“Their nickname is ‘the boxing kangaroo’ and that’s because they do kick. Their claws are really big, and they’re muscly.”
While rare, there have been at least two other non-deadly kangaroo attacks in Australia this year.
In July, a 67-year-old woman received cuts and a broken leg in Queensland and a kangaroo inflicted serious head injuries to 3-year-old girl in New South Wales in March.
Nearly 50 million kangaroos live in the wild in Australia, but decades of urban development have severely curtailed their natural habitat.