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March 7, 2013

Investigators seeks answers in lion's fatal attack

(Continued)

DUNLAP, Calif. —

Authorities are not pursuing a criminal investigation because all leads indicate Hanson's death was the result of an accident, sheriff's Lt. Robert Miller said Thursday.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Janice Mackey said she was unaware if any state regulations would prohibit an employee from entering an exotic animal's enclosure.

Dianna Hanson's older brother, Paul Hanson, said the family knew the line of work she chose was risky, but said his sister had followed her passion to care for animals since a young age. She grew up loving the family's two cats, volunteered at a local animal shelter and hoped to ultimately get certified to pursue a career in wildlife conservation or work at a zoo.

"Anybody that encountered Dianna couldn't help being enraptured with her and with her enthusiasm," he said in an interview Thursday. "She knew the risks and we knew the risks, but that was her passion. You always wondered when she was going to work, but the risks were part of that."

The lion, Cous Cous, a 4-year-old male, had been raised at Cat Haven since it was a cub, said Tanya Osegueda, a spokeswoman for Project Survival, the nonprofit that operates the animal park.

Paul Hanson said he thought his sister would be devastated to know that Cous Cous was killed.

Fresno County Coroner David Hadden told The Fresno Bee (http://bit.ly/15A9pjB ) a preliminary inspection showed the intern had suffered bites and scratches all over her body. A cause of death has yet to be determined.

Since the 100-acre facility just west of Kings Canyon National Park opened two decades ago, it has housed numerous big cats, including tigers, leopards and other exotic species. It is permitted to house exotic animals by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and is regulated as a zoo by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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