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Lion attack: State officials to perform necropsy on 4-year-old cat

March 6, 2013 |  4:55 pm

Cous Cous lion attack

This post has been corrected. See below for details.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will perform a necropsy on the 4-year-old lion that killed a woman intern at a Fresno County animal park Wednesday, officials said.

Janice Mackey, a Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman, said the department had taken custody of the animal's body and will assist the Fresno County Sheriff's Department with its investigation into the afternoon attack at Project Survival's Cat Haven, located near Dunlap in eastern Fresno County.

The park was licensed through the state and everything was in order, Mackey said, adding that the state agency was unaware of any previous problems.

The lion, named Cous Cous, attacked a woman intern when she entered the lion enclosure about 12:30 p.m., Dale Anderson, Cat Haven's founder, told reporters gathered outside the park Wednesday afternoon. A visibly shaken Anderson declined to answer questions about the incident.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to her friends and family at this time," he said, choking up. "We'll keep you posted as things progress around here."

The woman's name has not been released, but she is believed to be in her early 20s.

Cous Cous had been hand-raised at the park since he was 8 weeks old, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival.

"It's so tragic all the way around," she said.

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 confirmed that the person was inside the enclosure when the attack occurred.

Sheriff's deputies were first on the scene and "dispatched a lion at that time," Mackey said.

According to Cat Haven’s answering machine, the park is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for its “winter hours.”

"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.

[For the record, 7:21 p.m., March 6: A previous version of this post incorrectly gave Anderson's first name as Dave.]


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Photo: Cous Cous the lion, which was shot and killed after fatally attacking a woman at Project Survival's Cat Haven. Credit: Project Survival