In Depth

How to survive a mountain lion attack

Travis Kauffman has revealed the secrets behind encounter that left the cat dead and him with 28 stitches

A Colorado trail runner who survived a mountain lion attack by suffocating the animal has told of his narrow escape.

“One of the thoughts that I was having was: ‘Well this would be a pretty crappy way to die’,” Travis Kauffman told the media in his first public comments about the 4 February attack.

“It very much turned into just a full-on fight for survival,” added the 31-year-old “who had to have more than two dozen stitches to close wounds on his cheeks and nose”, reports the Daily Telegraph.

“I will never be able to live up to the reputation,” said Kauffman, who stands 5ft 10in (1.5 metres) and weighs about 150lb (70kg). “The story is bigger than my puny form.”

The encounter began when Kauffman was out running on a trail in Colorado and he heard a rustling behind him. 

“One of my worst fears was confirmed,” he said, as he turned to see the mountain lion about 10ft (three metres) away.

He said he felt his heart sank “as he processed the situation and raised his hands and began screaming to try and scare the animal as it rushed toward him”, says The Guardian.

“Unfortunately, it kept running and then it eventually just lunged at me and... its jaws locked into my hand and wrist,” he said.

Kauffman said that as he and the mountain lion were locked in battle, “they tumbled down a trail and he managed to get the upper hand as the cat ended up on its back”, reports the Daily Telegraph.

Kauffman grabbed a rock with his free hand and beat the cat on the back of the head. He also tried stabbing it with twigs, but nothing worked.

“I knew with two pretty good blows to the back of the head (and) it didn’t release, that I was probably going to have to do something a little more drastic,” he said. “I was able to kind of shift my weight and get a foot on its neck” until it succumbed.

He said he was able to pin the animal’s hind legs with his feet and hit it with a rock over the head before stepping on its neck and suffocating it.

Bleeding from his face and wrist, “he jogged back down the trail, where he met other runners who got him to a hospital”, reports The Guardian.

US authorities have revealed that Kauffman’s actions were in line with textbook recommendations when faced with the unusual situation. The US National Park Service while highlighting the rarity of what occurred said that people were advised not to play dead. Rather, if attacked, people should protect their necks and fight back using their hands and anything that could be used as a weapon.

Not everyone is as lucky as Kauffman though. Last year state authorities in Seattle revealed that a mountain biker who was killed by a mountain lion had also done everything right in the situation.

“They did everything they were supposed to do,” Sergeant Ryan Abbott of King county sheriff’s department said. “But something was wrong with this cougar.”

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