Ore. sanctuary: No gate problem in cougar attack

Nov 13, 2013, 2:21 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The owners of a suburban Portland wild cat sanctuary where a longtime employee was mauled to death by a cougar this weekend said Tuesday that a gate to a smaller cage where the animals should’ve been locked up was operating properly.

WildCat Haven in Sherwood said its head keeper, 36-year-old Renee Radziwon-Chapman of Portland, broke safety protocols that call for two qualified workers to lock the animals out of a large enclosure and into the smaller cage before a keeper enters the empty main space to clean or make repairs.

Instead, sanctuary lawyer Dale Johnson said, it appears Radziwon-Chapman worked alone, locked only one of three cougars in the smaller cage, and went into the main enclosure with the other two cougars.

According to the Clackamas County sheriff’s report, WildCat Haven owner Michael Tuller discovered Radziwon-Chapman bloodied and lying on her back inside the enclosure at about 7 p.m. Saturday _ about two hours after her shift should have been over.

Two cougars were found roaming freely in the main enclosure, and another was secured in the smaller, 15-by-15 cage within it.

Johnson said the facility owners still don’t know whether one or two cougars attacked the woman.

Radziwon-Chapman died at the scene of multiple bite wounds, autopsy results showed. Her family said they don’t believe the wife and new mother broke any rules, and she had expressed concerns about working alone just days before the attack.

Tuller also told investigators that Radziwon-Chapman should never have brought a hose inside the enclosure. A hose could potentially be something cats are attracted to or stimulated by, Johnson said.

Tuller told authorities that “this was not a normal day” and that Radziwon-Chapman 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 eventually move the sanctuary, the sheriff’s report said.

Michael Tuller said he thought Radziwon-Chapman was cleaning the enclosure at the time of the attack. The sanctuary’s owners did not explain whether the keeper was required to do that task when she was alone.

The facility’s main enclosure is surrounded on all sides by a 14-foot wall of thick wire with secure ceilings. It includes the smaller cage where the animals can be locked up, along with a double-door entry.

The sanctuary says its safety handbook specifies that a staff member can enter the main enclosure to clean or make repairs only after the animals are locked out of it in the smaller cage. Caretakers may never be alone with animals in the same space.

The smaller cage is opened from outside the enclosure, food is placed inside it by two caretakers to attract the cats, and the gate is latched once all the cats are inside, Johnson said. Once the animals are locked in the smaller cage, a keeper can enter the enclosure through the separate double-door entry.

Authorities have directed no blame the death. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said it concluded no crime was committed.

Radziwon-Chapman’s mother, Carol Radziwon, told The Associated Press that her daughter was very careful around the animals and had written some of WildCat Haven’s safety rules.

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

The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are still investigating.

The USDA will try to determine if any noncompliance with the Animal Welfare Act contributed to the attack, spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa said. USDA investigators will look at whether proper enclosures were in place and whether they were in good working order.

Oregon OSHA also will review the sanctuary’s safety protocols and training, spokeswoman Melanie Mesaros said.

Sanctuary officials said Tuesday that they’re also launching an investigation into the death. They’ve retained wild animal expert Tim Harrison of Ohio-based Outreach for Animals to review safety protocols and audit the facility.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the cougar or cougars that attacked Radziwon-Chapman would be put down.

WildCat Haven, located in a secluded, wooded area 17 miles south of Portland, is a nonprofit that rescues captive-born cougars, bobcats, tigers and other large wild cats. It houses about 60 cats and is closed to the public.

Radziwon-Chapman, who originally was from Philadelphia, leaves behind a husband and a 5-month-old daughter. She graduated from Portland State University with a biology degree and had more than 20 years of experience with domestic animals and big wild cats, family members said.

“Renee’s time with us was much too brief, but her drive to help all animals made an impact that will stay with everyone she knew and many she didn’t know,” her family said in a statement.

Radziwon-Chapman’s husband, Aaron Chapman, set up an online donation page for their daughter.

___

Contact Gosia Wozniacka at
https://twitter.com/GosiaWozniacka.

___

Online:

Donation page:
http://www.gofundme.com/57av7o

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed ...
Associated Press

Release of toxic chemicals from derailed tanker cars begins in Ohio

Crews began releasing toxic chemicals into the air from five derailed tanker cars that were in danger of exploding Monday.
1 day ago
Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-AZ) delivers remarks in the House Chamber during the third day of elections ...
Kevin Stone

Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona to give GOP Spanish rebuttal to Biden speech

Freshman U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona will deliver the Republican Spanish rebuttal to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address Tuesday.
1 day ago
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)...
Associated Press

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s split from Democrats shows party discord in Arizona

The Democrats' winning formula is in jeopardy ahead of the 2024 election after Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s divorce from the party.
1 day ago
(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)...
Associated Press

US officials offer Congress briefing on Biden, Trump papers

The Biden administration has offered to brief congressional leaders on its investigation into the classified documents.
2 days ago
FILE - Mega Millions lottery tickets and a wager slip are displayed, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Derry...
Arizona Sports

Drawing nears for $700M Powerball prize, 10th biggest in US

Another huge lottery jackpot will be on the line Saturday for players willing to put up $2 vs. daunting odds of actually winning the prize.
3 days ago
Chinese spy balloon flies above in Charlotte NC, United States on February 04, 2023. The Pentagon a...
Associated Press

US downs suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast

The United States on Saturday downed a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the Carolina coast after it traversed sensitive military sites.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Ore. sanctuary: No gate problem in cougar attack