The attack occurred at Project Survival Cat Haven, a wild cat preservation in Dunlap, Calif., about 45 minutes east of Fresno. According to Dale Anderson, the owner of Cat Haven, the victim was a female intern-volunteer. She was reportedly inside a cage when the lion, named Cous Cous, attacked, sister station KFSN reports.
It was not immediately known why the intern, 24-year-old Dianna Hanson, was in the cage. On her Facebook page she poses with big cats and talks about working at Project Survival's Cat Haven.
According to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office, deputies were called to the scene at 12:30 p.m. Upon arrival, deputies found the victim severely injured inside the cage. She died at the scene.
One other worker was inside the park, which was closed at the time of the attack. The sheriff's office says the worker had made several attempts to distract the lion away from the victim and into another enclosure prior to the deputies' arrival to no avail.
The lion also died following the incident, Ryan Michaels with Cal Fire confirmed. Michaels believed the lion may have been put down because law enforcement officers at the scene fired shots, and the Fresno County Sheriff's Office made a radio call saying that the animal had been secured. The sheriff's office later confirmed deputies shot and killed the lion in order to provide medical attention to the victim.
The facility is a 100-acre wild animal sanctuary licensed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Since the property opened in 1993, it has housed numerous exotic species including tigers and leopards. Operators of the animal park say Cous Cous had been raised at Cat Haven since it was 8-weeks-old. Prior to this incident, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says Cat Haven had a good record.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Department and state officials are investigating the attack.
Hanson's father said she was in the second month of a six-month internship at the sanctuary. He also said he didn't know why his daughter went into the cage.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.