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Intern fatally mauled by lion in cage at animal sanctuary in California

Cat Haven, a private animal sanctuary in Dunlap, Calif., was closed on Thursday, a day after the fatal attack.

STEVE KELEHER/REUTERS

Cat Haven, a private animal sanctuary in Dunlap, Calif., was closed on Thursday, a day after the fatal attack.

DUNLAP, Calif. — A Seattle-area intern fatally mauled by a lion at a central California exotic animal park loved lions and tigers since childhood, was fearless around them, and hoped to work at a zoo after her six-month internship at the park, her father said Wednesday.

‘‘She was at ease with those big cats,’’ Paul Hanson said of his daughter, Dianna Hanson, 24. ‘‘They liked her.’’

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The intern was found by deputies on Wednesday inside a male African lion’s cage. Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said Hanson was already dead when authorities found the 550-pound lion tossing her body about its enclosure shortly after the attack.

Hadden said Thursday that bite and claw marks found on Hanson’s body were sustained after she died. He said investigators believe the lion broke Hanson’s neck with a paw swipe.

Deputies shot and killed the lion to reach Hanson’s body, said Lieutenant Bob Miller of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators were trying to determine why Hanson was inside the enclosure and what might have provoked the attack, Sergeant Greg Collins said. The facility is normally closed on Wednesdays, and only one other worker was there at the time of the attack, Collins said.

Paul Hanson said his daughter had told him she was not allowed to go into the lion’s cage.

Cat Haven founder and executive director Dale Anderson cried as he read a one-sentence statement about the fatal mauling at the private zoo he has operated since 1993.

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