Friday 18 October 2019

'One of my worst fears' - runner who wrestled mountain lion

Travis Kauffman responds to questions about his encounter with a mountain lion (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Travis Kauffman responds to questions about his encounter with a mountain lion (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

P Solomon Banda

A runner who survived an attack by a mountain lion says he wrestled the young animal to the ground and jammed his foot onto its neck to suffocate it.

Travis Kauffman says the lion locked its jaws on his wrist and was clawing his face and arms during the attack in Colorado on February 4.

The ordeal left him with 28 stitches and a reputation for toughness.

"I will never be able to live up to the reputation," said the 31-year-old trail runner, who is 5ft 10in and weighs about 11 stone. "The story is bigger than my puny form."

Mr Kauffman said he was running a trail in the mountains west of Fort Collins when he heard pine needles rustle behind him.

He turned to see the mountain lion about 10 feet away.

"One of my worst fears was confirmed," he said.

The cat lunged, and Mr Kauffman raised his hands and screamed. The animal locked its teeth onto his wrist and they tumbled off the side of the trail.

A wave of fear rolled over him, he said, and he worried that the animal's full-grown mother would join the attack to defend her offspring. But no other cat appeared.

Fear then gave way to the fighting instinct, he said.

After killing the animal, Mr Kauffman jogged back down the trail, where he met other runners who got him to a hospital.

"I was just thankful that he had his eyes and his fingers and all his parts, and it didn't look as bad as I maybe would have thought that it could," said his girlfriend, Annie Bierbower.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers retrieved the dead cat. They said their investigations confirmed Mr Kauffman's account.

"Travis is a pretty amazing young man," said Ty Petersburg, a wildlife manager for the agency.

Mr Kauffman was the 22nd person attacked by a mountain lion in Colorado since 1990, Parks and Wildlife said. Three of the attacks were fatal.

Mr Petersburg said officers set up cameras and traps in the area for several days after the attack.

They saw no large mountain lions but captured two young ones in good health. He said both were in a rehabilitation centre, and the agency hoped to release them back into the wild.

Mr Kauffman, an environmental consultant, described himself as an avid runner, cyclist and skier who has a pet cat at home. He said he did not plan to retreat from the outdoors.

"I will go run those trails again," he said, but added: "I will go with a buddy there."

PA Media

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