SHERWOOD, Ore. -- The mother of the Oregon woman killed in a cougar attack at a wild animal sanctuary in Sherwood told KGW Monday that she blames the facility for the death.
Renee Radziwon-Chapman, 36, was attacked and died Saturday night inside an enclosure at WildCat Haven in Sherwood, where she was the head keeper, according to Sgt. Robert Wurpes with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Sanctuary officials said Sunday that while protocol calls for more than one worker inside an enclosure containing an animal, Radziwon-Chapman had apparently gone in alone, which violated safety rules.
The victim's mother, Carol Radziwon, told KGW Monday that Renee had recently shared concerns about working alone at the facility. She said her daughter was “extremely careful” and she was upset over how the sanctuary was putting blame on her.
"I resent the fact the sanctuary said it was her fault. My daughter would not do that," she said. "They broke the rules, not my daughter."
Radziwon-Chapman worked with tigers, cougars, bobcats and lynx at the sanctuary for the past eight years. She had a biology degree and was also a certified vet tech.
A routine inspection at the sanctuary by the U.S. Department of Agriculture a year ago listed no problems. A check by KGW found no history of Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaints, either.
The no-kill large-cat haven is located in the 31000 block of Heater Road in Sherwood and surrounded by high fences. (See photos at top, right.) One neighbor told KGW he feels comfortable with the wild animals next door, despite the times when a bobcat and another smaller animal got loose in recent years.
“The neighbor found it on their porch and they called and the Cat Haven folks went right up and got it and then they told us what happened,” Ron Taylor said.
KGW asked the sanctuary owners and their lawyer for further explanation of how this could have happened, but they have not yet returned calls.
On Sunday, Wildcat Haven Sanctuary put a statement on its website. Here is an excerpt from that statement:
“Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with the family of our dear colleague and friend who we have so sadly lost,” said Executive Director Cheryl Tuller. “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.”
Radziwon-Chapman was married and the couple has a six-month-old baby.
KGW reporter Kyle Iboshi contributed to this report.