ORANGEVILLE – The founder of a Wyoming County animal park was trampled to death by an antelope at his facility, the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
Hans Boxler Sr., 81, died at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure, 2887 Royce Road.
A Nilgai antelope had gotten out of its pen and trampled Boxler, who was feeding animals from a fenced-in area at the time.
Boxler’s family called authorities just before 12:30 a.m. Monday after finding his body.
The antelope was found by family members near its pen, the door to which was also found open. They then went to look for Boxler after he had not returned from his work by the usual time, the sheriff’s office said.
The Monroe County Medical Examiner’s Office has ruled Boxler’s death accidental. He died from multiple blunt-force injuries, the sheriff’s office said.
In a statement, the family described Boxler’s death as “a shock.”
“Hans’ life-long passion was to farm and work with animals. He wanted to share his passion for God’s animals with others which encouraged him to create his own ‘Noah’s Ark’ at Hidden Valley Animal Adventure,” the family said in a written statement.
The animal was never completely loose from the facility, only from its pen, which is surrounded by a secondary retention fence, authorities said.
Boxler fed animals and took care of them daily, officials said.
“He respected the innate nature of his animals, and therefore followed a routine daily, which is why this tragic accident is such a shock,” the family said in a written statement. “We will never know exactly what happened. Clearly it was something out of the ordinary that caused the animal’s reaction that occurred in an animal management area that was not accessible to the public.”
There are more than 200 animals at the 60-acre park, including camels, zebra, llama, emu, bison, ostrich and others, according to the park’s Facebook page.
Kevin Kretschmer, owner and president of Adventure Calls Outfitters in Castile, said Hidden Valley Animal Adventure was Boxler’s brainchild and his passion.
“He’s responsible for that being there. It’s something he had the vision to build and he saw it through,” Kretschmer said.
The Boxler family has been in the Varysburg area for years and still runs a dairy farm next door to the animal park.
Boxler was involved in the day-to-day operations at the family-run business, which opened in 2006. The park added a dining and banquet facility and built in 2010.
“He’s been great for Wyoming County tourism, not only his business but tourism in general,” Kretschmer said.
In a 2008 story about wind turbines, Boxler was described as the largest landowner in Wyoming County.