Last Monday, Travis Kauffman went for a run near Fort Collins, Colorado. Little did he know his workout would include suffocating a mountain lion.
“I feel like I should go buy a bunch of lottery tickets,” he said.
Authorities on Thursday identified Kauffman as the runner who won a fight-to-the-death struggle last week after the cat ambushed him along the trail.
Kauffman — a 31-year-old who moved to Fort Collins about five years ago to live a more active, outdoor lifestyle — described the nightmarish experience in a February 11 interview with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A video of that interview was shown to reporters on Thursday, and Kauffman repeated his account at a press conference afterward.
“It was just pure adrenaline,” he told reporters. “There was a certain point where I just kind of imagined being stuck on this hillside and eventually just having a cat gnaw at me, which is a creepy way to go. But, for the most part, the adrenaline just kept kicking in at those moments.”
Runner: My heart sank into my stomach
Kauffman was running in the Horsetooth Mountain Open Space on February 4 when he heard the rustling of pine needles somewhere behind him.
He typically wouldn’t have turned his head to look, assuming the noise belonged to a smaller “woodland creature.”
“But in the back of my mind there’s always that thought that it could be something else,” Kauffman said. “And that something else this time happened to be a mountain lion.”
“I just kind of had my heart sink into my stomach a little bit,” Kauffman said.
The cat was about 10 feet away, said Kauffman, and he threw up his arms and began yelling in an attempt to scare the animal off.
It didn’t work.
The cat pounced, latching its jaws around Kauffman’s wrist as he tried to protect his face from the claws scratching at his face and legs.
He tried to throw the cat off of him, but both man and lion tumbled down a slope, and a “wrestling match” ensued, Kauffman said.
He eventually managed to pin down the cat’s back legs as he reached for sticks and rocks to strike the mountain lion and force it off of him. All the while his arm was still trapped in the cat’s mouth.
“It really clicked after I hit it in the head with a rock and it still didn’t release my wrist, that at that point, more drastic measures were necessary,” he said.
Kauffman managed to get his foot pressed down on the mountain lion’s neck, and held it down until the animal suffocated and let go of his wrist.
He ran three more miles after the attack
Kauffman had to run three miles down the trail, bloodied, injured and warily eyeing his surroundings for more mountain lions.
He eventually ran into another runner who ran down the trail with him, before they ran into another couple near the parking lot. One of them ended up giving him a ride to the hospital while the others went to get his truck.
At the hospital, doctors were able to clean him up and get a first look at the extent of his injuries, including a bloody gash across his left cheek and numerous puncture wounds from the mountain lion’s teeth and claws.
Kauffman was given 19 stitches in his cheek, six along the bridge of nose and another three in his wrist, where the animal had latched onto him. He was given antibiotics to prevent infection.
A necropsy revealed the mountain lion was about 4 to 5 months old and weighed between 35 and 40 pounds when alive, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. There were multiple causes of death, including blunt trauma and strangulation. The cat tested negative for rabies.
Despite his ordeal, Kauffman said he didn’t regret moving to Colorado to pursue a life lived in the outdoors.
“It’s definitely a very unique state where you can actually see wildlife,” he said. But, he added, “it’s usually better at a distance.”