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Worker killed by wildcat at animal sanctuary

PORTLAND, Ore. >> The employee killed this weekend by a wildcat at an Oregon animal sanctuary was described as an experienced worker who was comfortable with the animals she cared for.

Renee Radziwon, 36, of Portland, died in the Saturday night attack, Deputy Mark Nikolai of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Sunday. No details of the attack or type of animal were released. The sanctuary is located in the suburb of Sherwood, outside Portland.

“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.

WildCat Haven officials did not immediately respond to a telephone and email messages left by The Associated Press today.

Its 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.”

Cheryl and Michael Tuller opened the facility in 2001.

Last summer, the sanctuary announced plans to move from its 8-acre facility in Sherwood to an 82-acre site near Silverton and launched a fundraising effort. The Tullers did not set a timetable for the move, The Oregonian reported.

The facility is not open to the public, but does provide on-site tours to donors.

In February, a 24-year-old woman interning at a California wildcat park was killed by a lion while she was cleaning the cage. The woman’s family called the incident at Cat Haven an accident. In that case, investigators believed the 5-year-old male lion lifted the door of a partially closed feeding cage with its paw and killed Dianna Hanson as she cleaned a bigger enclosure area.

Family members said they didn’t believe it was a mauling, but rather a lion’s rough play that turned tragic.

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