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Lion in fatal attack had lived at animal park since it was a cub

March 6, 2013 |  3:57 pm

Photo: The scene at Cat Haven, a Fresno County wild animal park, after a fatal lion attack Wednesday. Credit: Diana Marcum / Los Angeles Times

The lion that was shot and killed at a Fresno County wild animal park after fatally attacking someone in its cage had lived at the park nearly its entire life, a spokeswoman said.

The 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous had been hand-raised at Project Survival's Cat Haven since he was 8 weeks old, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates the park in eastern Fresno County. Osegueda said the lion was euthanized after the attack "per guidelines" but did not elaborate. She did not confirm that a worker was killed.

Details about the Wednesday attack remain unclear.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Ryan Michaels told The Times that emergency crews were called to the scene after a reported animal bite, but the victim was declared dead by the time they arrived. Michaels said the person was inside the cage when the attack occurred.

Local media reported that the victim was an employee, but Michaels was unable to confirm it.

According to Cat Haven’s answering machine, the park is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for its “winter hours.” Calls and messages seeking comment were not immediately returned.

"Project Survival's Cat Haven promotes the conservation and preservation of wild cats in their native habitat by educating visitors and publicizing the work done by Project Survival Cat Conservation Group," its website states.

The website shows photos of numerous wild cats, including bobcats, cheetahs, leopards and lions.

Lt. Tony Spada of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife told the Fresno Bee that the animal park is licensed by the agency for exotic animals.

He called the incident "very rare," noting that regulations and safety measures required by the state call for minimal human-animal interaction.

"This facility has a very good history," Spada told the newspaper. "In this case, someone just got too close."

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— Kate Mather

Photo: The scene at Cat Haven, a Fresno County wild animal park, after a fatal lion attack Wednesday. Credit: Diana Marcum / Los Angeles Times

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