Local News

Dad of wildlife intern killed by lion: ‘It was her dream job’

SEATTLE — An African lion attacked and killed a young woman from Brier who was an intern at the Project Survival’s Cat Haven animal park in eastern Fresno County, Calif., authorities said Wednesday.

A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed the lion in an attempt to save her, but it was too late.

The victim, Dianna Hanson, 24, grew up in Brier and graduated from Mountlake Terrace High School in 2007 and from Western Washington University in Bellingham in 2011; she had studied biology.  On her Facebook page, she said she also worked as a lifeguard for the city of Shoreline.


Dianna Hanson

Lt. Tony Spada of the California Fish & Wildlife Department said she was killed by a 4-year-old male lion named Cous Cous  in an enclosure at the Cat Haven in Dunlap, Calif. The haven is permitted by the agency for exotic animals.

A co-worker tried to distract the animal during the attack, but the attempts failed. Spada said the lion was “dispatched” by a Fresno County sheriff’s deputy who came to the scene.

According to the Fresno Bee, a visibly shaken and emotional Dale Anderson, who founded the wildlife zoo, said Wednesday afternoon the victim was a female volunteer intern who entered the lion’s enclosure.

The lion had lived at the park nearly its entire life, Cat Haven spokeswoman Tanya Osegued said.

Cous Cous had been hand-raised at Cat Haven since he was 8 weeks old, said Osegueda.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Ryan Michaels told The Los Angeles 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.

“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 victim’s father, Paul Hanson, issued the following statement Wednesday night:

“Today,  my beloved daughter Dianna (age 24) was killed in a work accident at Cat Haven, a big cat refuge near Dunlap, CA. She was killed while working in the lion’s cage. It’s made the national news.

“Dianna really loved her 6-month internship at Cat Haven. She and I drove down there from Seattle on Jan 1 & 2 She was so excited at working in Cat Haven and living in California. Once there, she gave me the tour and showed me all the big cats there with which she would be working. Of course, Dianna being Dianna, her favorites were the tiger and the lion, CouCous, who killed her today. You can see on her Facebook page all the big cats she loved so much down there. Especially the linx and the very docile cheetah, Tango. He’s in a lot of her posted photos.

“Please honor Dianna’s memory by helping her favorite cause: preserving the remaining big cats in the world. She would ask us to do that for her.

“Di, we will always love you. And we will miss you so much. But I know that you will be happy. For now, you truly are in the eternal “Cat Haven”

“I love you


Project Survival said it would investigate whether safety protocol was followed.

Cat Haven is a 100-acre wooded sanctuary that is home to “some of the rarest cats in the world,” including lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards, according to its website.


25 Comments to “Dad of wildlife intern killed by lion: ‘It was her dream job’”

    JFV said:
    March 6, 2013 at 5:56 PM

    This is wrong in so many ways and this place needs to be investigated. Two deaths that shouldn't of happened!

      Barbrady said:
      March 6, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      "shouldn't of happened"

        JFV said:
        March 6, 2013 at 9:54 PM

        Two deaths that "have"?????Two deaths that have shouldn't of happened???? If your going to troll people & their grammer at least you could be more specific. What a shame you find it more important to correct someone's grammer instead of expressing sympathy for two deaths.

          Barbrady said:
          December 17, 2013 at 6:42 PM

          Have, not of, idiot.

    willy wonka said:
    March 6, 2013 at 9:20 PM

    Poor lion, it was just following instinct… humans and lions aren't meant to interact, so, I'm not surprised this happened…it's sad, but not surprising…

    katie said:
    March 6, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    condolences to the family….sad she had gone this way…

      billy said:
      March 8, 2013 at 5:42 AM

      Sad story but we shouldn't be surprised. Getting in a cage with a wild animal sounds like tugging on Superman's cape to me. Hear these stories every year about someone's love for (insert dangerous animal here) getting attacked by said animal.

    sandi said:
    March 7, 2013 at 7:54 AM

    I have been to a cat haven here in Indiana, they do not allow anyone not even the handlers to be in direct contact with the big cats, they use enclosures within enclosures to feed them, and clean their areas. I think this place needs to rethink how they do things, I feel sorry for the young woman, and the big cat as well.

      guest said:
      March 7, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      Don't fault the facility or the lion. She did not follow the rules; neither did she use common sense that no one goes into a lion's space alone. That is rule #1 at the haven. To blame the animal and destroy it for following its basic instincts is reprehensible. He only followed his natural instincts; she didn't follow hers.

        The Scarlet E Cook said:
        March 7, 2013 at 2:48 PM

        I agree with this writer 100%. The Lion paid the price for the Human not following the rules. The human paid the price of foolishness. Who would dare enter into a Lion's enclosure without someone being with you? Raised by human hands or not…this is a natural wild animal!

    guest said:
    March 7, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    its like the gun control acts of recent.. is your life worth protecting. what defensive tool was she allowed and why or why not?

      guest said:
      March 7, 2013 at 9:19 AM

      i'm thinking a potent tranquilizer epiphen.

    Red State said:
    March 7, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    I have the nicest domestic cat that I rescued. My cat has the greatest temperament with my kids. If someone waived a magic wand and made my cat big enough to eat me if she wanted that would instantly give the cat up. We have a potential Darwin Award winner.

    Tb1109 said:
    March 8, 2013 at 6:02 AM

    It was her dream to be mauled and neck broke by a lion WTF! This family needs to hire a lawyer get somebody's attention that this place needs some work and retraining. If the Big Cat place says it is Always the Humans fault in tragedies like this that would be a good indication of who's side they are on.

    Guest said:
    March 8, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    Why was this woman on the telephone when in the Lion's enclosure?

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