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Originally published Monday, November 11, 2013 at 8:04 PM

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Oregon worker killed by cougar had voiced concern, mother says

The woman killed Saturday by a cougar at an animal sanctuary outside Portland had worried about safety there, her mother says.


The Associated Press

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Carol Radziwon said her daughter was very careful around the animals and would not... MORE

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PORTLAND — The longtime employee killed by a cougar over the weekend at a suburban Portland animal sanctuary had expressed concerns about safety measures at the facility, her mother said Monday.

Renee Radziwon, of Portland, was killed Saturday while cleaning a cougar enclosure at Wildcat Haven in Sherwood. The 36-year-old wife and new mother had worked as an animal-care technician and head keeper at the sanctuary for the past eight years.

“There was no one there to help her. There was no one at that sanctuary. They left her completely alone,” her mother, Carol Radziwon, told The Associated Press by phone from Pennsylvania.

The sanctuary did not return calls for comment Monday. However, the facility said in an earlier statement that it appeared Renee Radziwon had broken its protocol by being alone in the enclosure.

Also Monday, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said it finished looking into the attack and concluded there was no crime to be investigated, spokesman Sgt. Robert Wurpes said.

According to the agency’s report, Wildcat Haven owner Michael Tuller discovered Renee Radziwon bloodied and lying on her back inside the enclosure at about 7 p.m. Saturday. Tuller pulled her by her boots into a secure entrance before calling 911.

Tuller told authorities that Radziwon was alone at the facility because he and his wife — the sanctuary’s executive director, Cheryl Tuller — were at another property in Scotts Mills, where they plan to move the sanctuary, the report said.

Officers found one cougar walking freely inside a main enclosure with a little blood above its nose, and a second cougar in a 15-by-15-foot cage.

Autopsy results released Monday showed Renee Radziwon died at the scene of bite wounds.

The Sheriff’s Office said two cougars were in the enclosure, but investigators were working on the theory that just one attacked.

“Unfortunately it seems like a pretty cut-and-dried event,” Wurpes said. “She was in the enclosure, and the cat attacked her.”

The sanctuary said in a statement Sunday that while its protocol calls for two qualified workers inside an enclosure containing animals, Renee Radziwon was alone with two cats.

The facility’s handbook specifies that a staff member can enter an enclosure to clean or make repairs only after the animals are locked out of it.

Carol Radziwon said her daughter was very careful around the animals and would not break safety rules, because she had written some of them herself when she started working there.

Melanie Mesaros, spokeswoman for Oregon OSHA, said the agency will be investigating the incident.

Wildcat Haven is a nonprofit that rescues wild animals such as cougars, bobcats, tigers and other wild cats. Cougars are the size of large dogs and are native to the American West.

The sanctuary is 17 miles south of Portland, in a secluded, wooded area. The Tullers opened it in 2001 and still run it. Its website says the facility houses more than 60 cats. Renee Radziwon was the only staff member listed on the site.

Wildcat Haven has an exhibitor’s license, the U.S. Agriculture Department said. It is closed to the public but can conduct tours for donors.

The agency is looking into the incident to determine whether any noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act contributed to the attack, spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said.

Two routine inspections conducted by the federal agency at the sanctuary in 2011 and 2012 showed no violations, according to Agriculture Department records.

Renee Radziwon, originally from Philadelphia, is survived by her husband and 5-month old daughter. Her husband, Aaron Chapman, set up an online donation page for the infant.

“Renee was a devoted wife, mother and advocate for animals,” Aaron Chapman wrote on the page.

Her “life was taken so suddenly and tragically while doing the very thing that she cared so much about, tending to and caring for wild cats.”



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