A female intern-volunteer was killed Wednesday by a lion at a private wild animal park in Central California, and state and local authorities were trying to determine what might have caused the fatal attack.
Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson was crying as he read a one-sentence statement about the fatal mauling at the exotic animal zoo he has operated since 1993.
The 26-year-old intern was attacked and killed when she entered the lion's enclosure, Anderson said, but he refused to answer questions or provide more details.
Sheriff's deputies responding to an emergency call from Cat Haven, in the Sierra Nevada foothills about 45 miles east of Fresno, found the woman severely injured and still lying inside the enclosure with the lion nearby, Fresno County sheriff's Lt. Bob Miller said.
Another park worker had unsuccessfully tried luring the lion away and into a separate pen, so deputies shot and killed it so they could reach the wounded woman, who died at the scene, Miller said.
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, Collins said.
CBS affiliate KGPE reports that there had been no problems at Cat Haven prior to the incident, according to authorities.
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.
Couscous was one of about two dozen animals at Cat Haven, which 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.
Tatiana, a tiger at the San Francisco Zoo, was killed by police after jumping out of its enclosure and fatally mauling 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. and injuring two other people in 2007.
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.