Family: Woman killed by cougar was passionate animal advocate

PORTLAND, Ore. - The family of a Portland woman who was killed in a cougar attack at a private animal sanctuary on Saturday said she was a devoted wife, mother and animal advocate.

A statement released by Renee Radziwon-Chapman's family said her passion, spirit, kindness and warmth "were felt by all who knew her."

Radziwon-Chapman, 36, was an employee at WildCat Haven sanctuary in Sherwood, Ore.

The Clackamas County Sheriff's office said the cougar attack was reported Saturday night just before 7 p.m. The sheriff's office and medical examiner said Radziwon-Chapman died of injuries consistent with a wild animal attack.

There were two cougars in a cage with her when she was killed, according to the sheriff's office.

In a statement released on Sunday, WildCat Haven said Radziwon was alone with the cougars during the attack, which goes against the facility's protocols.

Radziwon-Chapman's mother told The Associated Press her daughter had expressed concerns about safety measures at the sanctuary before the attack.

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

The sanctuary did not return multiple calls for comment from the AP. Renee Radziwon was the only staff person listed on the sanctuary's website.

WildCat Haven houses tigers, cougars and other predators. The facility is not open to the public, but does provide on-site tours to donors. The facility has nearly 60 cats, including four tigers, according to its website.

Radziwon-Chapman's family said she had over 20 years of experience with wildcats and domestic animals. She graduated from Portland State University with a degree in biology.

She is survived by a husband, Aaron Chapman, and six-month-old daughter, Noa Chapman. A fundraising site has been set up for Noa's future.

KATU's Erica Nochlin received this email from Radziwon-Chapman's cousin, Debi Vietri, on Sunday:

"My family has lost an angel this weekend. My second cousin Renee Radziwon-Chapman's life was cut short by the very animals she loved. She has left us with a legacy of love and inspiration. She was a free spirit who danced to her own music. Her smile will always light the way for those who loved her."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Family statement:

Renee Radziwon-Chapman was a devoted wife, mother, and advocate for animals. Her passion, spirit, kindness, and warmth were felt by all who knew her. Renee's life was taken so suddenly and tragically while doing the very thing that she cared so much about.

Renee graduated from Portland State University with a Biology degree and brought over 20 years of experience both with domestic animals and wildcats. Renee garnered the utmost respect from her peers through dedication, passion, and desire to enrich the lives of all animals she encountered.
Renee is survived by a loving husband, Aaron Chapman, a beautiful baby girl, Noa Elise Chapman, and the many rescued dogs and cats still at home. Noa will be 6 months old this month. Renee also leaves behind her extremely supportive Mother and Father, Carol and John Radziwon, her sister, Lori Brooks, and her brother Jeff Radziwon.

Renee's time with us was much to brief, but her drive to help all animals made an impact that will stay with everyone she knew and many she didn't know. Renee's glowing smile will be missed by all. Renee's spirit will continue to live on through her beautiful daughter Noa. The family appreciates all the kindness and well wishes that have been sent to the family as we deal with this tragic loss. The family is also extremely grateful and appreciative of the support and generosity of the community.