Lion kills Washington statewoman at exotic animal park

Advertisement

DUNLAP, Calif. (AP) — The Seattle-area intern fatally mauled by a lion at a Central California exotic animal park loved lions and tigers since childhood, “was absolutely fearless” around them and hoped to work at a zoo after her six-month internship, her father said late Wednesday.

“She was at ease with those big cats,” Paul Hanson, a Seattle-area attorney, said of his daughter, Dianna Hanson, 24. “They liked her.”

Hanson told The Associated Press that he dropped his daughter off Jan. 2 at Cat Haven, about 45 miles east of Fresno.

“It was just a dream job for her,” he said, adding that she gave him a little tour and showed him the lion Cous Cous, which authorities said killed her.

Hanson said his daughter had worked with big cats before but told him she would not be allowed to go in the lion cage.

On Wednesday, deputies found the woman severely injured and still lying inside the male African lion’s enclosure with the lion nearby, said Fresno County sheriff’s Lt. Bob Miller. Another park worker couldn’t lure the lion into another pen, so deputies shot and killed it to safely reach the wounded woman, but she died at the scene, he said.

Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson cried as he read a one-sentence statement about the fatal mauling at the private zoo he has operated since 1993.

Investigators were trying to determine why the intern was inside the enclosure and what might have provoked the attack, sheriff’s Sgt. Greg Collins said. The facility is normally closed on Wednesdays, and only one other worker was there when the mauling happened, he said.

Authorities are not pursuing a criminal investigation because all leads indicate Hanson’s death was the result of an accident, sheriff’s Lt. Robert Miller said today.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Janice Mackey said she was unaware if any state regulations would prohibit an employee from entering an exotic animal’s enclosure.

The lion, Cous Cous, a 4-year-old male, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was a cub, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates the animal park.

Officials at another big cat sanctuary, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., told The Associated Press last year that at least 21 people, including five children, have been killed and 246 mauled by exotic cats in the United States since 1990. Over that period, 254 cats escaped and 143 were killed.

In 2007, a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo was killed by police after jumping out of its enclosure and fatally mauling a 17-year-old boy and injuring two other people.

Cat Haven has housed Bengal tigers, jaguars and leopards as well as bobcats native to the area. The facility’s website says it promotes conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitats and offers visitors tours and educational outreach.

Anderson said Project Survival would investigate to see if the intern and the other worker on-site followed the group’s protocols.

“We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our staff, animals and guests,” he said in a statement.

Paul Hanson said his daughter graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School and was a 2011 graduate of Western Washington University in Bellingham, where she majored in biology.

From her early childhood, “she had a thing for lions and tigers, especially tigers,” he recalled.

During college, she worked at what Hanson described as “a sizeable estate” outside Bellingham that was home to exotic animals, including three tigers and a lion. It was there she learned to care for the cats, he said.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

Click here to sign in