Head Keeper Killed by Cougar at Big Cat Sanctuary

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The head keeper at a private sanctuary for captive-born wildcats was mauled to death by a cougar, authorities announced Monday.


File photo of a cougar. (Credit: dracobotanicus/flickr)

Renee Radziwon-Chapman died Saturday at WildCat Haven Sanctuary in Sherwood, Oregon, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office.

The 36-year-old suffered “devastating injuries in the critical areas of head and neck,” Dr. Christopher Young of the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office.

“We are devastated by this loss,” the sanctuary staff said in a statement. “Not only was she one of our most dedicated staff members, we thought of her as family.”

According the sanctuary, Radziwon-Chapman, an eight year veteran at the facility, was the only person inside the animal enclosure when she was attacked.

It was not clear why Radizwon-Chapman went against policy and entered the cage without another staff member present.

The sanctuary’s handbook specifies 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,” according to the statement.

WildCat Haven describes itself as a “last hope” sanctuary that provide a safe, natural lifetime home for captive-born wildcats in need.

State and federal officials are investigating the death.

CNN contributed to this report.