Entries in Lion (5)


ABC News Exclusive: Cat Haven Employee Recounts Deadly Lion Attack 

A male lion (pictured here) killed a person at the Sierra Cat Haven in Dunlap, CA on March 6. ABC News(DUNLAP, Calif.) -- An employee at a big cat California sanctuary where a volunteer intern was fatally attacked last week called the attack an unfortunate mistake, saying that nobody was to blame.

Employee Meg Pauls was performing her regular cat feedings and enclosure cleanings with intern Dianna Hanson right before the 24-year-old Hanson was attacked and killed last week.

Hanson was two months into an internship at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, a small town in Fresno County near King's Canyon National Park, when she was killed.

Each woman had taken a separate enclosure trail, but when Pauls got to the end of her trail, she didn't see Hanson or her golf cart where they should have been.

"I came around the corner and saw her behind a bush on the ground, and I called to her, and Cous Cous [the lion] was near her and I called to her and it looked as if she was unconscious," Pauls said. "I stopped my cart and ran up there to find out why she wasn't where she should be at that point."

When Pauls got to Cous Cous' enclosure, she found a door within the enclosure was open when it should have been closed. It is still unclear what exactly caused the attack.

"She was in the main enclosure under some bushes in an opening," Pauls said. "I could see her lying down there, and I was calling to her. There was no response."

Pauls couldn't secure the lion and get to Hanson, so she kept Cous Cous next to her while she called 911. Less than 30 minutes after Hanson entered the cage, Cous Cous was shot by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who had responded to the call, authorities said.

Dale Anderson, Cat Haven's founder, said that at this point nothing on the enclosure appears to have been broken or malfunctioning. Everything was in place and operating without violation for 15 years.

The enclosure has four separate areas inside, three for the cat and one for a person. Anderson believes the lion was in the food area inside his enclosure, but the door to keep him away from Hanson had been left open.

Anderson also shot down reports that Hanson had been on her cell phone at the time of the attack. She had a walkie-talkie on her but did not use it for assistance at the time of the attack.

"How and why he [Cous Cous] did that is kind of a mystery," Anderson said. "He came out of the cage and saw somebody. Did he run in to her? Did he hit her? We don't know. When you say attacked, it sounds gruesome, but it sounds like he just knocked her down and broke her neck."

Anderson started raising Cous Cous when he was 8-weeks-old. Anytime you are dealing with a 500-pound cat, he said, there is risk of an accident.

"Dianna and I had dinner the night before and were talking about cat philosophy. Cats mean a lot to us," he said. "When you do that kind of stuff, there's an inherent risk and we accept that because we love it. Worst case scenario, there's a death involved, and that's what happened here. Again, the risk that's involved is less than what's involved satisfaction wise."

Hanson's family members knew their daughter loved Cat Haven, and they don't want anything to happen to the sanctuary as a result of their daughter's death, Anderson said.

"We've been telling stories about Dianna," Pauls said. "She still makes us laugh. She was an incredible person. Cous Cous is not to blame. He wasn't doing anything to cause that. That's not at all what I think. He was just being a cat. He was just being a lion."

Pauls said she never questioned her training or the way the cat enclosures are set up. She has never feared the animals and feels safe at her job. Anderson said Hanson's death was an unfortunate accident and didn't want people to think any less of her.

"We've all ran a red light or a stop sign, but sometimes it's a fatal incident," he said. "It wasn't anything about her work. She had an accident. She left a door open.

"Nobody's to blame in this. It was a terrible accident and we lost two good friends."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Intern Killed in Lion Attack: Was a Gate or Door Left Partially Open?

ABC News(DUNLAP, Calif.) -- Dianna Hanson, the intern killed by a lion inside an enclosure at a big-cat sanctuary in California, died of a broken neck, a Fresno County coroner said on Thursday, although it's still unclear why the lion attacked her.

Fresno County coroner David Hadden told ABC News that he believes a gate or door was left partially open when the 4-year-old male African lion named Cous Cous attacked Hanson Wednesday afternoon.

"The cat had just been fed and there was food in the bowl and the cat had ignored the food in order to have access to this young lady," Hadden said Thursday night.

Fresno County Sheriff's Lt. Patrick Hanson, who's not related to the victim, told ABC News Thursday night that he "cannot confirm or deny which gates were working or which gates weren't working."

Dianna Hanson, 24, died instantly but Cous Cous caused additional wounds to the woman's body after her death.

"She did not suffer.  As tragic as this death is, it's important to know that she wasn't alive for a long time," Hadden said.

Less than 30 minutes after the attack began, Cous Cous was shot by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who responded to a call, authorities said.

The body of the 500-pound lion is now at a vet facility in Tulare County awaiting a necropsy to determine what may have caused the fatal attack.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Intern Killed by Lion at California Sanctuary Identified

A male lion (pictured here) killed a person at the Sierra Cat Haven in Dunlap, CA on March 6. ABC News(DUNLAP, Calif.) -- California state wildlife officials say they will perform a necropsy on the 4-year-old African lion that attacked and killed a female volunteer intern Wednesday afternoon at a big cat sanctuary in Fresno County.

Authorities say the woman was attacked at Project Survival’s Cat Haven when she entered the lion’s enclosure around 12:30 p.m. local time.

Deputies from the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene and shot and killed the lion.  A spokesperson for Project Survival said the lion was named Cous Cous and had been hand-raised at the sanctuary since he was eight weeks old.

ABC News has learned the victim is 24-year-old Dianna Hanson.  She was two months into a six-month internship at Cat Haven.

Her father, Paul Hanson, spoke to ABC News by phone from his home in Washington state and said he dropped his daughter off in January, and that she was not allowed inside the lion and tiger cages and could only feed the animals from outside the cage.  He says he has no idea why Dianna was inside the cage on Wednesday.

Paul Hanson said Dianna cared for the animals each morning and gave tours to school children in the afternoons.  He said she loved to be around big cats -- it was her passion.

The sanctuary was closed to the public at the time of the attack.  California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife says Cat Haven is licensed and has a good safety record.

Dave Anderson, the founder of Cat Haven, said his thoughts and prayers go out to the victim’s friends and family.

Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of Jack Hanna's Into the Wild, says there’s an old saying: “You can usually train a wild animal.  You can never tame a wild animal.”

Hanna says people who work with animals must remember they're dealing with wild creatures.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Intern Killed by Lion at California Sanctuary

A male lion (pictured here) killed a person at the Sierra Cat Haven in Dunlap, CA on March 6. ABC News (DUNLAP, Calif.) -- An intern at a big cat sanctuary in Dunlap, Calif., was killed after being attacked by a lion, officials told ABC News.

"The lion was also killed," CalFire spokesman Ryan Michaels said.

The incident occurred at around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Sierra Cat Haven in Dunlap, a small town in Fresno County near King's Canyon National Park, authorities said.

The worker was inside the cat enclosure when the attack occurred, officials said. It was not immediately clear what the worker was doing inside the closure, or what prompted the attack.

In an interview with ABC News television affiliate KFSN, Sgt. Gregg Collins of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office said responding deputies found the worker dead inside a big cat enclosure.

Authorities have not named the deceased worker, but Dale Anderson, the owner of the facility, told reporters it was a female volunteer intern, KFSN reported.

The animal involved in the attack, a male African lion, was shot by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who responded to a call, authorities said.

The park was closed at the time of the attack.

The reserve was founded in 1999 on 100 acres by Anderson and is home to a variety of species of big cats, including cheetahs and tigers, according to the company website.

Officials said the park has had a good history, and had an active permit to operate.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Fresno County Sheriff's Department were investigating the incident.

Tony Spada of the Fish and Wildlife Department said wildlife forensic personnel would, "look at the animal and determine if the animal did, in fact, attack the subject, and then we will have our findings. And we work closely with the homicide detectives and/or detectives working the case."


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Labradoodle Mistaken for Lion, Prompts 911 Calls

ABC News(NORFOLK, Va.) -- Bustling Colley Avenue in Norfolk, Va., lined with its shops and eateries, is clearly no wild jungle. But that didn’t stop three 911 callers Tuesday from reporting that there was a lion on the loose roaming the streets, possibly rummaging for food.

Turns out, however, it was just one local business owner’s friendly Labradoodle dog, named Charles the Monarch, whose fur coat is intentionally groomed to resemble nearby Old Dominion University’s lion mascot.

“I go to Old Dominion University and our mascot is a lion and we have a local zoo right here also,” Charles’ owner, Natalie Painter, told ABC News. “He was just roaming around. He does his own thing a lot of the time. He visits the locals on the street and walks on the sidewalk shop to shop. He was walking around, and he does look a lot like a lion. So I guess some concerned citizens thought there was a lion.”

Upon hearing of the lion sightings, the police actually called the Virginia Zoo, making sure the lions were all in place, which they were. But apparently this isn’t the first time the Norfolk Police Department has been alerted to a “lion” in the area.

“The callers all described the Labradoodle as a ‘lion.’ The dog is named Charles and has not been documented to hurt or bite anyone,” Karen Parker-Chesson, the Norfolk Police Department public information officer, said.

Natalie’s father, Daniel Painter, owns Daniel’s Lawn and Garden Center on Colley Avenue, and often has Charles the Monarch at work with him. The dog is well-known around the community for his resemblance to the lion mascot, frequently making appearances at football tailgates and around campus.

“It happens all the time,” Natalie Painter said. “It’s really funny. I’m used to the attention but when I’m on campus, I’ll bring him to roam around while I do homework outside and I see students and faculty running around with cameras after him. It’s like he’s in The Beatles.

“He’s 4 years old. He’s been a lion ever since we’ve had him. We always bring him to all the football games. He’s a little local celebrity when it comes to football season, but it always catches people off guard.”

A Labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador retriever and the standard or miniature poodle.

Charles, affectionately nicknamed “Labra-Lion,” has established quite a reputation for himself, equipped with his own Facebook and Twitter pages.

And when asked how Charles the Monarch got his distinctive name, the answer was simple.

“We took a picture when he was on the porch one day,” Painter said. “He had his snout up, and he just looked so majestic, so regal. So it just stuck."

“People are abbreviating it on Facebook, calling him ‘CTM.’ That’s when you know you’ve made it.”


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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