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Boy bitten by hyena at East Feliciana animal preserve

4 months 1 week 21 hours ago Sunday, October 22 2023 Oct 22, 2023 October 22, 2023 10:02 PM October 22, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

ETHEL - A hyena at a small-scale nature preserve that markets up-close encounters with exotic animals is under quarantine after biting a boy who approached the animal's enclosure on Saturday. 

Amber and Joshua Laviolette were visiting Barn Hill Preserve with their toddler son when they witnessed what happened. They followed a group of other families on an unmarked path to the hyena exhibit.

The couple says they watched as a boy reached his hand through a chain fence into the habitat, petting the animal. They said the hyena named Mowgli latched its mouth onto his arm.

"The guy next to us started screaming. The hyena had grabbed a hold of his forearm right here," Amber Laviolette said.

Joshua, who's a firefighter, grabbed the boy. He tried pulling the animal off. 

"I just basically went behind him and tried to grab his arm to try to pull it back forward, and the hyena had him pretty good," Joshua said.

Amber said she heard bones in the boy's arm cracking during the struggle and called for help. Another person nearby saw what happened and started screaming right before the animal let go and ran away.

The incident happened on the back side of the enclosure. Barn Hill Preserve said in a statement that the area is blocked by multiple gates and bushes. Guests say they didn't see any signage, as they followed other families to the area.

Family members of the victim -- a young teenager -- dispute the claim that the boy put his hand through the enclosure and tell WBRZ that they do not believe the area was marked adequately to keep visitors away from the fence.

They said the boy did not sustain any broken bones from the encounter.

Although Barn Hill Preserve sells encounters with kangaroos, otters and sloths, the organization does not allow for guests or even employees to touch the hyenas at the facility. 

Mowgli the hyena is under quarantine for 60 days. During the time he will get daily observations for neurological symptoms. 

Barn Hill said the victim sustained minor bruising and scraping. The age of the victim was not released. 

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