Travis Kauffman, the runner who who was attacked by a young male mountain lion while running on trails in Colorado on February 4, calmly and articulately told his story at a press conference by Colorado Parks and Wildlife yesterday, including details of what happened during the attack and how he killed the animal. (He even cracked jokes about Chuck Norris.)

RELATED: Trail runner kills mountain lion in self-defense in Colorado

With wounds still visible on his face, Kauffman, 31, first shared his story in a video by CPW on February 11, one week after the attack. Kauffman explains that he moved to Fort Collins, Colorado from Mountain Home, Arkansas five years ago to take advantage of the outdoor lifestyle–mountain biking, downhill and cross-country skiing, in addition to trail running. 

On the day of the attack, Kauffman, who is 5’10” and weighs 155 pounds, was only about a quarter of a mile into a 12- to 15-mile run on a service road called Towers when he heard the rustle of pine needles behind him, and turned to see the mountain lion, which lunged at him. As he put his hands up to protect his face, the cat latched onto his right wrist (which is still bandaged in the CPW video), and started clawing at his face. Yelling loudly and trying to shake it off him, Kauffman endured an approximately 10-minute wrestling match with the animal, trying to stab it with sticks that kept breaking, then trying to hit its head with a rock. He finally got on top of the cat, pinning its back legs with his left knee and getting his right knee on the cat’s neck, suffocating it. Only then did it release its grip on his wrist.

Kauffman wore the same blue jacket to the press conference that he’d been wearing on his run. (The press conference below, recorded by the NBC affiliate KOAA 5 of Pueblo, Colorado, begins at 4:00 minutes with CPW staff, then the video linked above. Kauffman appears at 25:42.) 

At that point, stoked on fear and adrenaline, Kauffman ran back three miles down the mountain, meeting three other runners, one of whom drove him to the hospital while the other two went to retrieve his truck, parked about 6.5 miles (10.4K) away.

Kauffman received 26 stitches to his face (mainly his left cheek) and three stitches to the wound on his wrist. He also sustained several puncture wounds from the mountain lion’s teeth and claws. In the CPW video, Kauffman says he feared for his life during the attack, but “About a week out, I feel great. Things are healing up really nicely.” He also speculates that his story sounds sensational because we so rarely hear such dramatic “man vs. nature” stories. He says if he had been running with earbuds, he might not have heard the animal approaching, or been able to turn his head early enough to defend himself as well as he did. He said he plans to continue running the trails, but with a buddy.

Mountain lions, also referred to as cougars or pumas, are “ambush predators,” but they rarely attack humans. The necropsy on the dead mountain lion confirmed everything Kauffman had told CPW about the attack and about how he defended himself, and CPW took him back to the area a week later to recreate the scene. The necropsy on the dead animal showed it did not have rabies. CPW intends to release two more mountain lions captured in the days following the attack back into the area at some point.

 

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