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Questions over use of tranquilizer darts in fatal lion attack in Caswell County

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ASHEBORO, N.C. -- A 22-year-old intern was killed in a lion attack at the Conservators Center in Caswell County and wildlife experts are questioning that a tranquilizer dart was used to try and stop the lion while Alexandra Black's life was at risk.

Director of Animal Health at the North Carolina Zoo Jb Minter is trained to sedate or anesthetize wild animals and says there is a big difference.

"Tranquilization is creating a state of calmness or serenity, so if I give you a sedative or a tranquilizer you're not going to be anesthetized, you're not going to be asleep, you're going to be calm so you can still potentially move about depending on how much sedative you are given," Minter said.

On Sunday, when the person in charge of the animal at the Conservators Center hit the lion with three tranquilizer darts the lion never went down.

Minter says the animals state of agitation plays a big role in the drugs effectiveness.

"Animals can almost push through where basically the drugs don't work as effectively as if the animal was calm," Minter said.

The three tranquilizer darts were delivered through a blow gun.

It's a legitimate way to administer the drugs if you take into account the type of animal and distance.

"If you are in close proximity then someone with good lung capacity can put a dart into an animal 10 to 15 yards," Minter said.

There are also dart guns which extend your range. Unfortunately, that day no one had immediate access to a dart gun.

A decision was made to use deadly force and the lion was shot eight times before it went down.

Nationally known wildlife expert Ron Magill told FOX8 deputies should have immediately tried to kill the lion.

"Once a lion has gotten out at attacked somebody, and they are still with that person, there is no longer an option of a tranquilizer dart. Every second could mean life or death for that victim. A tranquilizer dart to an animal under a normal circumstance could take around 10 to 15 minutes," he said.

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