The animal, a wapiti deer which is a hybrid of an elk and a red deer, charged towards McDonald when he went to feed him that morning. Upon hearing the animal attacking Paul, Mandi and the couple's teenage son ran outside to see what was happening, Acting Senior Sergeant Paul Pursell told the Australian Broadcasting corporation. When Mandi entered the deer's enclosure, she was attacked — which prompted the couple's son to hit the deer with some wood in an attempt to stop the attack.
While Paul died on the scene due to his injuries, Mandi was airlifted to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, where she remains in critical condition with upper body and leg injuries, reported Sky News.
Pursell called the attack an "absolute tragedy," adding, "Moyhu is a small community." He went on to say that authorities would be considering options to provide community members with counseling sessions.
Testosterone-driven deer can be dangerous to humans, especially during mating season.
David Voss, president of the Australian Deer Association, a hunting group, said, "It's a very, very short, sharp season where they get aggressive and fight with each other." Voss also said that the deer's enclosure was one possible reason behind this specific attack — usually deer prefer to run away, but the McDonalds' pet had nowhere to run, so he attacked instead.
According to official Victoria state government estimates, Australia is overrun with deer — Victoria alone is home to up to 1 million of them. In fact, Parks Victoria has introduced a program to limit the population of the animal, which now threatens local vegetation.
Before Wednesday's incident, there hadn't be a single deer-related death in Australia in nine years; 77 people have died this decade, however, due to cows and horses, as reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. In 2017, another study showed that horses claimed more lives than snakes in Australia.
The deer attack comes days after a Florida man was killed by cassowary, a large flightless bird relative to the ostrich.