The Colorado runner who survived a vicious mountain lion attack by wrestling the creature and suffocating it to death is finally speaking out on the life-threatening experience.
Travis Kauffman came forward on Thursday to share how his life flashed before his eyes and he went into fight or flight mode when a mountain lion crept up behind him.
The terrifying attack took place on February 4 in the mountains of Fort Collins Colorado as Kauffman was running on a trail and suddenly heard ‘pine needles rustling’ and realized a wild lion was sneaking up about 10 feet behind him.
‘One of my worst fears was confirmed…I just had my heart sink into my stomach a little bit,’ he said during a news conference held by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Thursday.
Recovering from his ordeal, Travis Kauffman has come forward as the man who killed a mountain lion that attacked him as he was on a run on February 4 by stepping on its neck and suffocating it to death
Kauffman opened up about the traumatizing animal fight on Thursday during a press conference held by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, North East region
Travis Kauffman (pictured above following the attack), says the lion locked its jaws on his wrist and was clawing his face and arms during the February 4 attack, leaving his with bloody gashes across his nose and cheek
Kauffman pictured above with Annie Bierbouer before speaking about the life-threatening lion attack on Thursday
The mountain lion attack made headlines earlier this month, but the man behind the attack remained a mystery until Thursday.
Kauffman, accompanied by his girlfriend Annie Bierbower, spoke on the horrifying experience in a interview with state wildlife officials on Thursday.
The experienced runner said he was heading out on a trail at the Horsetooth Mountain Park when the lion appeared and pounced on him.
When the creature pinned him down, Kauffman said his ‘fear response turned into more of a fight response’ and he began to attack the lion.
The lion leaped on Kauffman and locked its jaws on his wrists and started clawing his face and arms.
‘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.
Kauffman, accompanied by his girlfriend, Annie Bierbower (pictured above), spoke at a press conference held by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, North East region
Kauffman explains in a video interview with state wildlife officials released Thursday how he overcame the attack, showing a cast on his arm
He retraced his steps in the mountainous trail in Fort Collins with wildlife officials to give a play by play account of the mountain lion attack
With a burst of energy Kauffman wrestled the young giant cat to the ground, hit its head with a rock and futilely tried to stab it in the neck with twigs.
As they fought each other they ended up rolling onto the south end of the trail.
‘From there it was just like a wrestling match,’ Kauffman said.
Finally, Kauffman managed to pin down the lion’s back legs with his knee then lodged his foot on the cat’s neck and suffocated the animal to death.
‘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 recalled.
Injuries: The Colorado Parks and Wildlife shared these pictures of his bloody gashes and lacerations to his face and neck
He said the lion pinned him down at his wrists and started to attack his face and neck
Kauffman also suffered scratches on his legs in the attack and required 20 stitches to recover
Kauffman managed to walk away from the animal fight with his life, suffering bloody gashes running along his face and arms.
He suffered numerous wounds including lacerations on his nose and cheek and required about 20 stitches to recover.
By Thursday he had largely recovered from his ordeal but still sported a scar across his cheek from the attack.
Kauffman said he’s saddened that he killed the animal, but during the attack he wasn’t even sure if it was actually dead.
After the animal seemed unresponsive he ran off, worried more might be lurking nearby.
Kauffman ended up running three miles to get out of the park. He found another runner and park visitor who jogged with him to a trailhead. Once there he was given a ride to the hospital and treated for his injuries.
Wildlife officials released a statement saying that Kauffman was very lucky to escape the attack with his life.
‘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,’ Mark Leslie, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager, said as per CBS.
‘These animals are ambush predators, and are trained to take quick and lethal action whenever possible,’ he added.
Kauffman is originally from Arkansas but has lived in Colorado for over five years.
He’s a seasoned runner and frequented the Fort Collins trail at the Horsetooth Mountain park for a year.
He was planning to go on a 12 to 15 mile run on the day of the attack.
Following the attack the park was closed but finally reopened this week.
Larimer County officials reported increased mountain lion activity in the area and increased patrols on trails the day after the attack.
‘We have removed additional lions that we believe are siblings of the lion involved in last Monday’s attack,’ Leslie said.
Those lions, also juveniles, will be moved to a rehabilitation facility and will be re-released into the wild.
While the park is back up and running, officials warn there’s still a chance visitors will find mountain lions there.