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Investigators want to know why woman entered lion's enclosure in California

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, March 7, 2013, 9:12 p.m.

DUNLAP, Calif. — A 24-year-old intern who was described by her father as a “fearless” lover of big cats ventured into a lion enclosure at a privately owned zoo and was mauled to death, prompting investigations by several government agencies that want to know how the accident happened.

Dianna Hanson, whose Facebook page is plastered with photos of her petting tigers and other big cats, was frustrated that the exotic cat zoo in California where she had worked since January did not allow direct contact with animals, her father said.

“She was disappointed because she said they wouldn't let her into the cages with the lion and tiger there,” Paul Hanson said about Cat Haven, the site of the deadly mauling on Wednesday.

The owner of 100-acre site in the Sierra Nevada foothills said Thursday that safety protocols were in place but he would not discuss them because they are a part of the law enforcement investigation. He, too, is trying to determine whether they were followed.

For reasons still being investigated, Dianna Hanson entered the enclosure of a male African lion named Cous Cous on a day that Cat Haven, 45 miles east of Fresno, was closed to the public.

The 4-year-old lion, which had lived at the park since it was a cub, attacked Hanson and was later shot by Fresno County sheriff's deputies who were trying to reach her body.

Autopsy results revealed the young woman died quickly of a broken neck, possibly from a paw swipe by the 550-pound lion, and the numerous bites and scratches she sustained were inflicted after she died.

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