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By Doha Madani
A Colorado man who fought off a mountain lion with his bare hands has come forward to describe what happened when the animal attacked him on a trail earlier this month.
Travis Kauffman, 31, said he was running on a scenic trail in the Fort Collins area on the afternoon of Feb. 4, when he heard a rustling of pine needles.
He turned his head to see a small mountain lion about 10 feet away from him, Kauffman recounted at a press conference Thursday.
His immediate response was to put his hands up and scream in an attempt to scare off the lion, but the animal lunged at his face. As Kauffman tried to protect his face, the lion latched onto his left wrist and began clawing at him.
He said that as he tried to throw the lion off of him, they both tumbled down a slope on a side of the trail. “From there, it was just a wrestling match,” he said.
Kauffman said he’s about 5 foot, 10 inches, weighing between 150 to 155 pounds, and guessed the young lion was around 50 pounds.
Once he was able to get on top of the animal and pin its back legs, Kauffman said he tried to use his free hand to grab sticks to stab the lion’s neck.
But those kept breaking. So he reached for a large rock to hit it on its head. That didn’t work either.
He was finally able to maneuver one of his legs up, “and then I stepped on its neck and then was eventually able to suffocate it.”
“It was just pure adrenaline,” Kauffman said. “There was a certain point where I just kind of imagined being stuck on this hillside and just having a cat gnaw at me, which is a pretty creepy way to go.”
After killing the mountain lion, Kauffman had to run another few miles to reach a parking lot, and he worried another mountain lion could come along.
“The fear was definitely tangible then,” he said.
Another runner saw him after the attack and ran with him until the pair found a couple who helped take Kauffman to the hospital.
He received more than 20 stitches on his face and some on his wrist. He also suffered contusions and puncture wounds to his legs and neck that didn’t require stitches.
Kauffman said he was reluctant to come forward publicly at first because he felt uncomfortable getting attention for a “situation of happenstance” and he “would never be able to live up to the reputation.”
“The story is bigger than my puny form,” he said.
An environmental consultant who moved from Arkansas to Colorado about five years ago to pursue outdoor sports such as running and mountain biking, Kauffman said he would be running with a buddy more often going forward.
“I’ve been out running and I feel like I am a little bit more jittery than I had been,” Kauffman said. “I kind of really analyze all of the paw print tracks that I see now.”