Head keeper at WildCat Haven killed by cougar Saturday, investigation ongoing

The head keeper at the WildCat Haven Sanctuary on Parrett Mountain was killed by a cougar Saturday evening.

Renee Radziwon-Chapman, 36, died at the scene from injuries consistent with a wild animal attack, according to the Clackamas County Medical Examiners Office.Chapman

Clackamas County Sheriff’s deputies and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue were called to the sanctuary around 7 p.m. Saturday on a report of a gravely injured employee. Once on the scene, it was confirmed she was deceased.

“Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our dear colleague and friend who we have so sadly lost,” Executive Director Cheryl Tuller said in a statement released Sunday. “We are devastated by this loss. Not only was she one of our most dedicated staff members, we thought of her as family. We send our most heartfelt prayers to those she has left behind.”

The statement added that protocol is for two staff members to work together during the lockout of dangerous animals, but at the time they believe Radziwon-Chapman was alone in the enclosure with the cats, who had not been shifted into the lockout area.

On Monday afternoon, WildCat released a second statement with their initial findings.

“Based on a careful examination of the enclosure where the attack occurred, WildCat Haven has concluded that the lockout gate was operating properly and would have prevented the three cats housed in the main enclosure from returning to the enclosure until released had they all been secured in the lockout. The lockout is a smaller area within the confines of the main enclosure. Only one of the three cats was secured inside the lockout when the attack occurred. Two others were found inside the main enclosure,” according to the statement.

The investigation is ongoing. Tim Harrison, director of the wildlife advocacy group Outreach for Animals, has been retained by WildCat to investigate the incident, review the sanctuary’s safety protocols and audit the facility. The Oregonian reported the state Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are also conducting investigations into Radziwon-Chapman’s death.

WildCat Haven Sanctuary, founded in 2001 by Cheryl and Mile Tuller, is a no-kill, “last hope” sanctuary housing more than 60 abandoned or abused animals.

In September, the facility announced plans to move from its eight-acre location on Parrett Mountain to an 82-acre site at Scotts Mills. A timeline for the move has not been set.

The sheriff’s office said there are no reports of the wild animals getting loose from the sanctuary and there is no immediate threat to the public.

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