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Lion attack: Founder of cat sanctuary gives reporters tour

March 7, 2013 |  5:43 pm

Cat sanctuaryThe founder of a Fresno County cat sanctuary where an intern was fatally attacked by a lion led reporters on a tour of the facility Thursday afternoon.

As Dale Anderson approached the enclosure where Dianna Hansen was killed and the male lion was shot by police as they tried to reach her Wednesday, there was a low moaning.

"That's Pele," he said of the 10-year-old female lion that lived in the same enclosure. "She's upset. We've had workers come and sit with her a lot."

He crouched down and the lion rubbed against the fence and his hand.

Anderson said he could not answer any questions about how the attack may have happened.

But a close look at the enclosure showed that the den where the lion was being fed, and the larger enclosure where the intern was cleaning, were separated by a heavy gate that could only be lifted up.

Hansen, 26, was killed at the park Wednesday when the 4-year-old African lion named Cous Cous attacked her. Another volunteer tried to lure the lion away from Hanson, but by the time authorities reached her, she was dead. The cat was shot and killed by sheriff’s deputies.

A preliminary autopsy suggested that Hanson died quickly from a fractured neck and “some suffocation,” said Fresno County Coroner David Hadden. The neck injury appeared to come from a swipe from the lion’s paw. The body had “numerous claw marks and bite damage” elsewhere, likely inflicted after the initial swipe, Hadden said.

Authorities on Thursday continued investigating the circumstances of the attack. Hanson and the other volunteers were alone on the roughly 100-acre park when the attack occurred about 12:30 p.m., officials said.

Friends of the workers said the routine was to feed the cats about noon, typically by putting food in a small enclosure, getting out and then letting the animals inside from a larger enclosure.

Officials have not specified the details of the incident, including whether the lion was in the larger enclosure or the feeding area.

But Hadden said Hanson’s body was found in the larger enclosure and it was his understanding that the lion had just been fed in the smaller enclosure when it “escaped.”

A necropsy on the lion was also scheduled to be performed Thursday, said Janice Mackey, a spokeswoman for California Fish and Wildlife. Officials will collect samples from the lion, looking for any underlying conditions or health issues that might have contributed to the attack. Results are expected in a couple of weeks.

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-- Diana Marcum in Dunlap

Photo: Dale Anderson at Fresno County cat sanctuary. Credit: Diana Marcum.

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