Colorado runner who choked mountain lion to death describes how it attacked him

Travis Kauffman ran three miles before going to hospital for treatment for wounds requiring 28 stitches

Harry Cockburn
Friday 15 February 2019 09:52 GMT
Colorado man Travis Kauffman describes how he prevailed in lion attack

A man who was attacked by a mountain lion while jogging in Colorado has described how he survived by choking the animal to death.

Thirty-one-year-old Travis Kauffman was out for a run on a path in Horsetooth Mountain Park when he heard the branches of a pine tree rustle behind him and turned to see the animal about 10 feet away.

“One of my worst fears was confirmed” he said in a video released by Colorado Parks and Wildlife 10 days after the incident, on 4 February.

Speaking with severe cuts still visible on his face and an arm bandaged, Mr Kauffman said: “It made my heart sink into my stomach a little bit.

“I threw my hands up … but it kept approaching. As it got close it just kind of lunged at me. I threw my arms up and it latched onto my wrist. I was just kind of protecting my face.

“It started clawing along my face and then my legs. I was screaming the whole time, doing my barbarian yell as best I could.”

While trying to throw the animal off, the pair tumbled down a steep bank to the side of the path.

“From there it was a wrestling match. It was thrashing and it still had my wrist locked in its jaws.

“I was able to get my left knee to pin down its back legs. As a pretty new cat owner I realised if you get a cat on its back, its back legs go crazy … I was pretty wary of the back claws hitting my guts or my groin or anything like that.

“I was grabbing at some sticks that were nearby and was trying to stab it in the throat. Unfortunately the sticks were kind of rotten so they kept on breaking. Then I was able to pick up a big rock with my left hand and I was trying to hit it on the head with a big rock but it was kind of a tough angle because my wrist was still in its mouth.”

As the tussle continued he was eventually able to bring up his right leg and put his foot onto the lion’s neck.

“I stepped on its neck and eventually I was able to suffocate it. And then it finally released from my wrist.”

“I ended up having to run another three miles down,” Mr Kauffman said. He met three other runners who then helped organise taking him to the hospital.

“My face was a bloody mess when I first got there,” he said.

A gash on his cheek required 17 stitches, a cut on the bridge of his nose needed six stitches, two more were needed for puncture wounds on his face and the deep wound on his wrist where the animal had held him required three stitches.

“I feel great. Things are healing up really nicely.”

Afterwards Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers retrieved the dead cat.

Their subsequent investigation confirmed Mr Kauffman’s account, and an autopsy revealed the animal had been four to five months old and weighed 35 to 40 pounds.

The parks service said there have been fewer than 20 mountain lion-related fatalities in more than a century, noting the big cats are “elusive animals” who “tend to avoid humans”.

“It’s just one of those sensational stories,” Mr Kauffman said. “It’s super rare. I just feel like I should go buy a bunch of lottery tickets.”

He said in future he won’t go running alone and advised other people visiting the area not to wear earphones after crediting his survival to hearing the animal’s approach.

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