March 6, 2013 — -- An intern at a big cat sanctuary in Dunlap, Calif., was killed after being attacked by a lion, officials told ABC News and ABC News station KFSN.
"The lion was also killed," CalFire spokesman Ryan Michaels told ABC News.com.
The incident occurred at around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Sierra Cat Haven in Dunlap, a small town in Fresno County near King's Canyon National Park, authorities said.
The worker was inside the cat enclosure when the attack occurred, officials said. It was not immediately clear what the worker was doing inside the closure, or what prompted the attack.
In an interview with KFSN, Sgt. Gregg Collins of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office said responding deputies found the worker dead inside a big cat enclosure.
Authorities have not named the deceased worker, but Dale Anderson, the owner of the facility, told reporters it was a female volunteer intern, KFSN reported. Anderson reportedly was crying as he read a statement to the media.
The animal involved in the attack, 4-year-old male African lion named Couscous, was shot by a Fresno County sheriff's deputy who responded to a call, authorities said.
Prior to sheriff's deputies' arrival on the scene, another employee had tried unsuccessfully to lure Couscous away from the victim and into another enclosure.
The park was closed at the time of the attack.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Fresno County Sheriff's Department were investigating the incident.
Tony Spada of the Fish and Wildlife Department said wildlife forensic personnel would "look look at the animal and determine if the animal did, in fact, attack the subject, and then we will have our findings. And we work closely with the homicide detectives and/or detectives working the case."
Cat Haven was founded in 1993 and is run by Project Survival, a privately funded education and conservation organization.
The 100-acre facility is home to a variety of wild cats -- including tigers, leopards and other threatened and endangered species which are kept for limited breeding and use in educational programs, according to Cat Haven's website.
Officials said the park has had a good history, and had an active permit to operate.
Cat Haven also runs an outreach program, and its "cat ambassadors" may sometimes be taken off-site to make appearances as part of that program, the website said.
The preserve is run by a core staff supported by volunteers.
Couscous had been raised at the preserve since he was a cub.
ABC News' Larry Dechant contributed to this report.