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Lion bites man's toe as he tries to climb fence into Fresno zoo, police say

A man who said he tried to climb into the Fresno zoo Wednesday night to escape a frightening situation outside found himself in even greater peril when a lion bit one of his toes.

Fresno police said Julio Mendez, 38, told them he became nervous when he saw a man on a street outside the Fresno Chaffee Zoo with a towel wrapped around his hand, so he decided to scale the zoo’s barbed-wire fence.

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A zoo security guard heard yelling and found Mendez climbing the fence of the lion enclosure in the zoo’s African Adventure exhibit. As he scaled the netting surrounding the enclosure, one of the female lions jumped up and bit the big toe on Mendez’s left foot, police said.

When officers arrived at the zoo about 11:15 p.m. Mendez was missing a shoe and blood had soaked through his dirty white sock.

Authorities handcuffed Mendez and helped limp to an ambulance. He was treated for his injury and cited for suspicion of trespassing.

Fresno Chaffee Zoo, which was founded in the 1920s, covers roughly 39 acres and houses more than 190 species. Since 2015, 13 acres of the park have been dedicated to the African Adventure exhibit with lions, cheetahs, rhinos, meerkats and elephants.

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