PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The mauling death of a longtime employee cleaning a cougar enclosure at a suburban Portland wildcat sanctuary this weekend is eerily similar to that of an intern killed by a lion at a wildcat park in California earlier this year.
In the Oregon case, WildCat Haven in Sherwood said its head keeper, Renee Radziwon, 36, of Portland broke a safety protocol that calls for two qualified workers in an enclosure with animals.
But Mrs. Radziwon’s family says the woman did not break any rules and had expressed concerns about working alone just days before the attack.
What exactly occurred may never be known because there are no cameras at the facility. But the circumstances of Mrs. Radziwon’s mauling recall the March death of 24-year-old Dianna Hanson at Cat Haven in central California. Hanson also was killed while cleaning an enclosure.
Hanson died after one of two lions escaped from a smaller feeding cage into the enclosure and attacked her. She, too, was working alone — though another worker at the facility was in contact with her via walkie-talkie.
In that case, authorities concluded that proper enclosures were in place and the intern had committed a fatal error: She failed to secure the latch of a door to the smaller cage.
Authorities in the Oregon case have directed no blame. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that it had finished looking into the attack and concluded no crime was committed.
The state Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture still are investigating.
WildCat Haven owner Michael Tuller discovered Mrs. Radziwon bloodied and lying on her back inside the enclosure at about 7 p.m. PST Saturday and pulled her body by the boots into a secure entrance before calling 911.
According to a Clackamas County sheriff’s report, responding officers found one cougar walking freely inside a main enclosure with a small amount of blood above its nose, and a second cougar in an enclosed 15-by-15-foot cage.
Mr. Tuller told authorities that Mrs. Radziwon 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 move the sanctuary eventually, the report said.
The sanctuary said in a statement Sunday that the facility’s handbook specifies that a staff member can enter an enclosure to clean or make repairs only after the animals are locked out of it.
The enclosure is surrounded on all sides with a 14-foot wall of thick wire with secure ceilings and includes a lockout area and double-door entry, according to the statement. Mr. Tuller told investigators he found Mrs. Radziwon’s body about 10 feet away from the inside door.
Sheriff’s officials did not say whether Mrs. Radziwon disregarded the safety protocol and allowed one of the cougars out into the enclosure with her, whether she left the smaller cage unlatched or whether the cougar escaped from the smaller cage, as the lion did in California.
The sanctuary did not return multiple calls for comment Monday.