Lion kills worker at California wildlife sanctuary

SAN FRANCISCO, March 6 (Reuters) - An African lion attacked and killed an employee of a private wildlife sanctuary in central California on Wednesday, law enforcement officials said.

Deputies responding to reports of an injured person at Cat Haven in Dunlap, California, found a severely wounded person inside the lion enclosure, Fresno County Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Robert Miller said.

"We don't know what happened leading up to the attack because there were no witnesses," Miller said.

Following the attack, another employee tried to distract the adult male lion away from the victim and into another enclosure but those attempts failed, the sheriff's department said in a written statement.

"Deputies shot and killed the lion to provide medical attention to the victim. The victim died at the scene," the sheriff's department said.

Representatives for Cat Haven, which is run by the group Project Survival in Dunlap, about 40 miles east of Fresno, could not immediately be reached for comment. The facility was closed on Wednesday.

Cat Haven was founded in 1993 by wildlife enthusiast Dale Anderson "to exhibit a variety of wild cats and engage public support for their conservation in the wild via specific projects," according to the park's website.

The 100-acre sanctuary sits just outside of King's Canyon National Park. (Reporting by Laila Kearney; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Steve Gorman, David Gregorio and Andrew Hay)