Worker killed in lion attack at Cat Haven in Dunlap

FRESNO, Calif.


UPDATE: Dale Anderson, the owner of the Cat Haven just told ABC30, the person killed was a female volunteer.


The person was attacked and fatally injured after getting into an enclosure with the lion at Cat Haven in Dunlap, Calif., Cal Fire spokesman Ryan Michaels told The Associated Press.

The facility, which is licensed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, is about 45 miles east of Fresno in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

A call to Cat Haven went unanswered.

The lion, a 4-year-old male named Couscous, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was 8 weeks old, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates Cat Haven.

Osegueda did not know how the park acquired the cub.

Cat Haven is a 100-acre wild animal park just west of Kings Canyon National Park. Since the property opened in 1993, it has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species.

The person who was killed worked at Cat Haven and the lion, a male from Africa, was shot and killed by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy. Fish and Wildlife spokesman Lt. Tony Spada told The Fresno Bee.

Cat Haven has had a good safety record, Spada said.

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

Cat Haven has housed Bengal tigers, Siberian lynx, caracals, jaguars and leopards of various types as well as bobcats native to the area. Its founder Dale Anderson, described the private zoo several years ago as one of a handful of facilities across the U.S. that has all of the big cat species in one place.

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 told the AP after a fatal Christmas Day 2007 tiger attack on a teenage boy at the San Francisco Zoo that it was a "good time to do a good story on a small organization doing some great work to save cats in the wild."

Tatiana, the tiger responsible for the San Francisco attack, was killed by police after jumping out of its enclosure and fatally mauling 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and injuring two other people.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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