Lion mauls western Kansas man at animal refuge

OAKLEY, Kan. | Authorities are investigating a weekend incident in which a man was mauled by a lion at an animal refuge in western Kansas, but no charges are expected to be filed.

The lion's owner, Jeffrey Harsh, told authorities that man staying at the Free Breakfast Inn motel next to the refuge near Oakley apparently made his way Saturday into an outer perimeter lion cage.

When Harsh showed up to feed the animals that evening, he found the man with his arm over the top of a gate on the inner cage. A Barbary lion had grabbed the man's right arm, said Thomas County Sheriff Rod Taylor.

Harsh reportedly beat the lion with a steel pipe so it would release the man. He then drove him to a Colby hospital. The victim, Bradley Buchanan, has since been transferred to a Denver hospital for more surgery. Buchanan, of Oakley, is expected to recover.

Taylor said photos of Buchanan's deep wounds appear to show that the lion reached the bone.

Harsh previously has faced legal problems for his ownership of exotic animals.

On Tuesday, the Thomas County prosecutor agreed to dismiss a misdemeanor case against Harsh, provided he transfers three Barbary lions to the Detroit Zoo.

Zoo officials were expected to travel to Oakley within three months to examine the lions for any diseases. If the tests are negative, the lions would then be taken to Detroit.

Taylor said no charges are expected to be filed in Saturday's incident, providing Harsh follows through on his promise to move the lions.

But Harsh still has two tigers at the facility.

"I hope we find a home for the other two," Taylor said.