ETHEL, La. (BRPROUD) — Barn Hill Preserve is bulking up its security after a teenager who walked into a prohibited area was bitten by a hyena Saturday.
The East Feliciana Parish animal preserve’s senior staff responded to the biting incident “in a prompt and efficient manner” per protocols, a spokesperson for the facility said.
The teen guest went into a behind-the-scenes area instead of following the path with signs directing people to exhibits before sticking their hand into a fence and getting bitten by a hyena, Barn Hill Preserve said in a statement.
Amber Laviolette, a bystander at the facility, said her husband grabbed the teen, tried to pull him away from the hyena’s enclosure and talked calmly so he wouldn’t go into shock. She said she grabbed her toddler and ran to get help.
The facility added more security measures after the biting incident to ensure guests don’t access prohibited spaces.
“The guest viewing side of the fence is a solid wooden wall with tempered glass viewing windows and ample protection for both the guest and the animal,” Barn Hill Preserve said in its statement. “The larger fence spaces are used for positive reinforcement training for medical procedures with our staff of trained experts. The enclosure was added in 2020 and has passed numerous inspections by the USDA, which has strict regulations for enclosures that prioritize both guest and animal safety.”
Video from Barn Hill Preserve showing path to back fence
Striped hyenas are a “strict no-contact species for staff and guests” because of their dangerous nature, having a bite force strong enough to break bones, according to the animal preserve.
“This guest was incredibly fortunate that the hyena they approached was our hand-raised male who tends to be less aggressive,” Barn Hill Preserve said. “The guest sustained minor bruising and scraping to their forearm.”
Six-year-old hyena Mowgli went under veterinary care after the incident. Officials said the animal preserve has followed its internal procedures, and the owner has contacted the teen and their family to offer support and assistance.
Barn Hill Preserve said there has been a social media trend of people sneaking into forbidden areas of zoological facilities to make TikToks and videos, adding that it is dangerous and could lead to the death of animals acting on their natural instincts.