PORTLAND, Ore. (TheBlaze/AP) — The head keeper at a wildcat refuge killed by a cougar there may have violated safety protocols, according to a statement from the organization.
Renee Radziwon-Chapman, head keeper for eight years at the WildCat Haven Sanctuary outside of Portland, Ore., was attacked and killed by a cougar there Saturday, reported KATU-TV in Portland.
The organization's statement adds that the sanctuary has strict safety protocols for its workers and volunteers, specifying that "two qualified staff members shall work together during the lock out of dangerous animals. Once the animals are locked out, one staff member can safely enter the enclosure to clean or make repairs. Two qualified staff members shall be available when releasing animals from lockout areas."
The statement notes that Radziwon-Chapman, 36, "was alone at the sanctuary and alone in the enclosure with cats, who had not been shifted into the lockout area," The Oregonian reported.
"Her relationship with the cats was amazing," Jim Caliva, a WildCat Haven Sanctuary board member, told The Oregonian. "She knew exactly what she was doing, but apparently there was a mistake. I don't know what it could be."
Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Wurpes said Saturday that the animal was locked in a cage following the attack.
The refuge's website describes the facility as a "last hope" for more than 60 wildcats that have been abandoned or abused, including bobcats, cougars, lynx and tigers.
Caliva said Radziwon worked with all the cats at the sanctuary.
"They knew her and walked up to the fence," he told The Oregonian. "She was one of the best people I've ever met."
The facility is not open to the public, but does provide on-site tours to donors.