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Kirshner Foundation director explains what happened between leopard and volunteer on Saturday

CAL FIRE Butte County says there was an injury to a volunteer of the facility, but not to any visitors.

Posted: Feb 20, 2021 2:00 PM
Updated: Feb 21, 2021 3:44 PM

Video was added to this story on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2120

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Update 6:05 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 - The director of the Barry R. Kirshner Foundation, Roberta Kirshner, spoke to Action News Now reporter Amy Lanski on Saturday in the late afternoon to clarify what happened earlier in the day that caused an injury to one of the wildlife sanctuary volunteers.

Director Kirshner said it was not a tiger that was involved in the incident with the volunteer, but a small leopard. She said it was under 100 pounds in size. This particular leopard had never had any problem similar to this before, she explained.

Kirshner said a volunteer was the only person inside of the inner enclosure with the leopard.  This volunteer had worked with the leopard for several years, she explained, saying the volunteer and the leopard were very familiar with each other. Another volunteer was in the vicinity, as there are always two volunteers that work together.

Kirshner said she was not there when the incident occurred, but her understanding is that the leopard jumped on the volunteer. At that point, the other volunteer got the leopard off of her co-worker.

The director of the sanctuary said she has been working with cats since the age of 9, and that her organization follows rigid safety protocols, and said that no one had ever been injured before.

Director Kirshner clarified that it was an "incident" and "DEFINITELY not an attack."

She explained that people at the facility had concerns about the volunteer who was injured, but the woman who was hurt was more concerned about the welfare of the leopard. Kirshner said the injured volunteer was worried that the cat would have to be put down.

Kirshner expressed her thanks to all of the agency representatives that came out Saturday from the Butte County Sheriff's Office, CAL FIRE, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

She also explained that volunteers do not go into cages with any of the larger cats. They are not allowed to go inside of their cages, she said.

Kirshner said she was not aware yet of the extent of her volunteer's injuries. Earlier in the day, CAL FIRE told Action News Now that the injuries did not appear at all to them to be life-threatening.

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Update on our live broadcast at 6:00 p.m. with anchor Esteban Reynoso - Shortly after 6:00 p.m. we will post more information in this article. Action News Now reporter Amy Lanski finally was able to speak with the director of the Barry R. Kirshner Foundation, Robert Kirshner, so that we can provide more details concerning what happened.

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Update 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 - Butte County CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Rick Carhart has confirmed with Action News Now reporter Amy Lanski that they responded to a call at the Kirshner Wildlife Foundation today (Saturday).

The call was not for a visitor, but for a volunteer of the Foundation, Carhart said. The volunteer was injured during an incident with one of the animals, he explained.

The volunteer was taken to Enloe Medical Center, according to Carhart, who said from the firefighters' perspective there were no life-threatening injuries.

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Update 3:14 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 - We have a reporter who is still working on this story. She said the cat is still in its outer enclosure, but escaped from its inner enclosure. The Butte County Sheriff's Office has referred us to CAL FIRE for information. We are still working with the  CAL FIRE Butte Unit Public Information Officer (PIO) to obtain more details.

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BUTTE VALLEY, Calif. - According to officials at the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation in Butte Valley, near Oroville, rumors are going wild about a possible tiger attack with injuries to a person who was onsite.

Action News Now sent a reporter to the wildlife sanctuary early Saturday afternoon to find out what happened.

Officials from the sanctuary said there was no attack. They said a small cat did get loose. They say the cat was cornered and recaptured. They say everything is now under control, and that there were not any injuries.

A variety of social media posts were stating that there were injuries due to a loose tiger. Action News Now has also reached out to the Butte County Sheriff's Office for more information.

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