A red deer stag. (iStock)

Paul McDonald went outside to feed his pet deer on Wednesday morning. The Australian father never came back inside.

His wife, Mandi, and the couple’s 17-year-old son, Ethan, heard that something was amiss on the Moyhu property, in North East Victoria. They ventured outside and discovered Paul being attacked, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Ethan ran off seeking help, as Mandi tried to save her husband. The male stag, which the couple had owned for two years, shifted his attention and aggression toward her.

Ethan was able save his mother from the animal by whacking the deer in the head with a slab of wood. At time of publication, the ABC reported she had been air lifted to a Melbourne hospital and was in critical condition. She suffered injuries to her upper body and legs.

Responding officers shot and killed the deer at the scene, citing “concerns for the paramedic’s safety,” but it was too late for Paul McDonald. The farmer died from the deer-inflicted injuries before he could be rushed to the hospital.

Acting Senior Sgt. Paul Pursell called the attack an “absolute tragedy,” according to the ABC.

“Moyhu is a small community,” he said. “The people who are involved in the incident are well known to them, so what we’re looking at putting in place are some opportunities for counseling for community members.”

Deer experts have had mixed reactions.

The ABC quoted Steve Garlick, chairman of the deer management committee at the Australian Deer Association as saying: “Deer are much less likely to attack anyone than they are to run away from them.”

But others familiar with the stag species are less surprised to hear of Wednesday’s attack.

A 2017 government report documented hundreds of thousands of feral deer in the North East Victoria area, near Wangaratta, according to the Morning Herald.

The fall months are deer mating season, Barry Howlett of the Australian Deer Association told the Morning Herald. With higher testosterone levels, they can be more aggressive.

“It’s not an everyday occurrence, but it’s not unheard of for deer to kill people in that situation,” he said.

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