10/12/2011 11:18 EDT | Updated 12/12/2011 05:12 EST

Deer kills 55-year-old New Brunswick man with its antlers and hoofs

SAINT-LEONARD, N.B. - A New Brunswick man who was attacked by a male deer died after a violent struggle, the RCMP said Wednesday.

Donald Dube, 55, was killed Sunday evening while feeding his herd of domesticated deer behind his home in Saint-Leonard.

RCMP Sgt. Marc Violette said investigators believe the dominant buck in the herd attacked and killed Dube with its antlers and hoofs.

Violette said there were signs of a struggle so violent that Dube was missing a boot and sock when his body was found by officers in a pen where the animals were kept.

"The animal probably stomped on him and used his antlers to rough him up and throw him around like a rag doll," he said.

An autopsy concluded that Dube suffered massive internal injuries.

Violette said the homeowner went out to feed the animals and his wife got worried when he didn't return home or answer her calls to his cellphone. She called police, who went to the rural home to find Dube's body.

Violette said it's rutting season — a time of year when bucks compete against each other to mate with does.

"It's obvious he was attacked by one of the bucks, the dominant male in the herd," he said.

"Adult male deer this time of year have significant antlers and in the wild they are very adept at using them to fend off predators —coyotes, foxes, rabid dogs, what have you."

He said the bucks use their racks to pin their adversary to the ground, then put all their weight on them.

"All their weight is on their neck and they'll grind. Those antlers are sharp and they'll poke skin and muscle tissue very easily."

Doris Deschenes, a neighbour and long-time friend of Dube's, said in a telephone interview that provincial game wardens killed the buck and about 10 other deer on the family property.

She said some members of the Dube family came to her home while the wardens shot the deer with darts and then took away the bodies to dispose of them in a landfill.

Violette didn't know why Dube kept deer, but suspects it was a hobby and "for a bit of meat here and there."

Deschenes confirmed that her friend kept the deer as a hobby, and she said he was very confident in handling them.

She said Dube was well known in the area, and neighbours were deeply saddened by his death.

"It's tragic. ... This is something that nobody has ever heard of. Nobody here has ever been killed by a deer in his backyard," she said.