Owner of animal safari in WNY dead after being trampled by antelope

Posted at 8:52 AM, Jul 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-19 23:49:41-04

The owner of an animal safari in Western New York is dead after he was trampled by an animal.

Emergency crews were called to Hidden Valley Animal Adventure on Royce Road in Varysburg around 12:30am on Monday after a family member reported 81-year-old Hans Boxler, Sr. had been injured by an animal.

Deputies say Boxler was feeding animals in a fenced-in lane when he was injured by a Nilgai antelope that had gotten out of its pen. Wyoming County Sheriffs say it appears Boxler was trampled to death.

Family members located the antelope and secured it in a pen. Deputies say at no time was it loose from its confinement, but rather the animal was out of its pen which was also secured by a secondary retention fence.

An autopsy by the Monroe County Medical Examiner found Boxler died of multiple blunt force injuries.

Animal experts, like Jarod Miller say the Nilgai Antelope is a wild but domesticated animal, and says this type of situation could have happened with a cow or a horse.

Safari adventures continue to be held Tuesday at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure. A park official said the 50 employees there are doing their best to conduct business as normal.

"When we're working with animals, the rule of thumb is usually nothing like this happens," said Jarod Miller, an animal expert. "Like lightning, sometimes it strikes."

Hidden Valley Animal Adventure is home to more than 300 animals, including 40 that are considered exotic. The local community says the loss of Hans Boxler is a hard blow, as he was very active in the community and was dedicated to creating a family-friendly destination in Wyoming County.

Boxler, a dairy farmer with 60 years of experience, came up with the idea for Hidden Valley Animal Adventure in 2002.

"For as tragic as this was, Hans left us doing exactly what he loved doing," said Miller. "This was his passion, to build this facility for Western New Yorkers."

In a statement, the Boxler family said they will never know exactly what happened, but that it was clearly "something out of the ordinary that caused the animal's reaction."

The family says Boxler was around animals his entire life and "respected the innate nature of his animals and therefore followed a routine daily."

Calling hours will be held for Hans Boxler at The Lodge at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure on Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26 from 2-9pm. A celebration of life will be held on Wednesday, with a procession from The Lodge led by his beloved Belgian horses to a funeral mass at St. Joachim and Anne church in Varysburg.

Boxler will be buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery, behind the church.

Hidden Valley Animal Adventure will be closed July 25-27.