FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS) — A Colorado trail runner, formerly from Mountain Home, Arkansas, who fought off a juvenile mountain lion and killed it says his “fear response turned into more of a fight response” after being ambushed by the animal, our CBS news partner KCNC reports.
Travis Kauffman spoke at a news conference on Thursday (Feb. 14) in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Moments before meeting the national news media, Travis Kauffman and Annie Bierbouer embrace at our office.
— CO Parks & Wildlife (@COParksWildlife) February 14, 2019
Kauffman was planning to go on a 12 to 15 mile run on the day of the attack.
He said he first heard pine needles rustling behind him on a trail. Then, “one of my worst fears was confirmed,” a mountain lion appeared about 10 feet away.
“I just had my heart sink into my stomach a little bit.”
Kauffman raised his hands and yelled at the creature but it was to no avail, KCNC reports. The lion then charged at Kauffman and “latched onto” his wrist with its jaws.
“It was going up towards my face, so I threw up my hands to kind of block my face, at which point it grabbed onto my hand and wrist, and from there it started to claw at my face and neck. And that’s when kind of my fear response turned into more of a fight response,” Kauffman said.
The two fell off the south side of the trail, and, “from there it was just like a wrestling match,” Kauffman said.
Kauffman pinned down the mountain lion and tried to stab the lion’s throat with sticks. After that didn’t work, he picked up a heavy rock to smash against the lion’s head.
“I tried to give it a few bashes in the back of the head, but unfortunately I kind of had a tough time swinging it with my arm still locked into the cat’s jaws.”
Eventually, he was able to step and the lion’s neck and suffocated it.
“I was able to shift my weight and get a foot on its neck. … I stepped on its neck with my right foot and just slowly after a few minutes I thought I would be getting close and then it would start thrashing again — and I had a few more scratches that resulted from those thrashes at that point — and I’d say another couple minutes later it finally stopped moving.”
Kauffman ran away unsure if the lion was dead. He had to run approximately three miles to get out of the park following the attack. Another park visitor close to a trailhead gave him a ride to the hospital.
“We all feel extremely lucky that this attack was made by a young mountain lion on a knowledgeable runner, otherwise we may have been hosting a very different press conference,” said Mark Leslie, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager. “These animals are ambush predators, and are trained to take quick and lethal action whenever possible.”
The park Kauffman was attacked in was closed for a week as officials inspected the area and removed other mountain lions.
Watch Kauffman’s full news conference from Thursday below: