Mountain Lion-Killing Colorado Man Speaks For First Time [WATCH]
FORT COLLINS, CO – They called him The Man Of the North. The Fort Collins trail runner who was attacked on a trail by a juvenile mountain lion and managed to fend it off, killing the big cat, has recovered from his hospital-stay and spoke about the Feb. 4 attack on Thursday.
Travis Kauffman, 31, a trail runner who’s lived in Colorado for five years, was attacked from behind on the West Ridge Trail on Horsetooth Mountain Park outside Fort Collins. The cat bit and scratched him on the face and wrist and he suffered puncture wounds on his arms, legs and back, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said.
Kauffman, a Mountain Home, Arkansas, native and avid mountain biker and athlete, was about halfway through his planned 12-mile trail run to the top of Arthur’s Rock, a local foothill landmark in Lorry State Park. Although the trial was icy, the first clue that something was unusual was the sound of a disturbance behind him in the pine needles, he said.
“If I had earbuds in, I might have missed that,” he said Thursday. He turned his head and saw the male lion, about 50 lbs. and four feet long, behind him on the trail. Disbelief turned to fear, which turned to a fight for survival, he said.
Kauffman waved his arms, trying to appear larger than he was and yelled in his “barbarian yell,” but the lion pounced, attacking his face and neck with its claws and teeth. The cat then grabbed his wrist with its teeth and would not let go. “I heard the sound of my tendons and muscles snapping,” he said. The thought that he might never use his fingers again flashed through his mind.
As he struggled with the animal, the two rolled off of the path. First Kauffman tried to stab the cat’s face with sticks, trying to release its grip on his wrist, he said. Eventually he picked up a nearby rock and tried to smash its head, trying to get it to release his wrist, he said.
As he pushed the cat onto its back, Kauffman said his recent experience with a new pet cat at home warned him that the lion’s back legs could slash his abdomen or groin. He held them down with his legs until finally, he was able to get his foot on the lion’s neck and suffocate the animal.
The whole experience took about ten surreal minutes, Kauffman said. His biggest fear was that the juvenile’s mother or another adult mountain lion might be nearby.
“I was just worried that there might be another cat,” Kauffman said. He began to run back to the trailhead, and met another hiker, who helped him get back to the park entrance. Another couple helped get him to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins.
Kauffman ended up with more than 20 stitches in his face and damage to his wrist, but nothing was seriously broken or severed he said. He also had puncture wounds on his neck and legs.
His girlfriend Annie Bierbouer said she got an odd message on her cellphone, “‘I’m Ok, but I just got attacked by a mountain lion,'” which she thought was a joke, she said.
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After the attack, park officials closed the park for a week and Colorado Parks and Wildlife rangers using bait and game cams found two other juvenile mountain lions at the park. Those were caught and taken to a rehabilitation center, said said Ty Petersburg, area wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. They will be released, he said.
Mountain lion attacks are not common in Colorado. Juveniles are more aggressive, and it’s possible the lion’s hunting instants were triggered by the runner. “This could have had a very different outcome,” Petersburg said.
Kauffman, who works as an environmental consultant for oil and gas companies said he’s spent a lot of time in the wilderness. “But I’m mainly worried about rattle snakes,” he said.
Since the attack and his release from the hospital, he has been running a couple times, but he thinks he’ll be running with a buddy if he does any trail runs in the future. He’s still planning to participate in a Rocky Mountain trail race this summer called the Dirty 30, he said.
Watch the press conference live below:
If You Encounter a Mountain Lion
The CPW offers these tips to survive a big-cat attack:
“People rarely get more than a brief glimpse of a mountain lion in the wild. Lion attacks on people are rare. Most of the attacks were by young lions, perhaps forced out to hunt on their own and not yet living in established areas. Young lions may key in on easy prey, like pets and small children.”
Image via Colorado Parks and Wildlife
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