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Watch a Man Calmly Describe Choking a Mountain Lion to Death to Save His Life

"I just kind of had my heart sink into my stomach."

by Sarah Emerson
20 February 2019, 3:56am

Travis Kauffman. Image: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

This article originally appeared on VICE Motherboard US.

The Colorado man who killed a mountain lion with his bare hands last week recounted the grisly event to Colorado Parks and Wildlife in a video posted on Thursday, describing how he encountered the powerful predator and made it out alive.

Travis Kauffman was trail running at Horsetooth Mountain Park near the Rocky Mountains last Monday when the attack happened.

He heard a rustle of pine needles, and swiveled to see a mountain lion stalking him. “I just kind of had my heart sink into my stomach,” Kauffman recalled. Encountering the animal in the wild was “one of his worst fears,” he said.

Travis Kauffman fought off a mountain lion while trail running in Colorado.
Image: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The lion wasn’t deterred by Kauffman’s screaming and flailing (a suggested scare tactic), and it pounced. The animal bit his arm with its forceful jaws while they tumbled down a hill.

At this point, most people would probably assume the fetal position and welcome the sweet embrace of death, but Kauffman fought back. The secret to his success in the life-or-death battle, he said, was his pet cat.

“As a pretty new cat owner, I realized that once you get a cat on its back, its back legs go crazy,” he explained. “So I was pretty wary of the back claws actually hitting my guts or my groin.”

Knowing this, he pinned the lion’s back legs with his knee. Kauffman then attempted to stab it with sticks and bash it with a rock. When both of these maneuvers failed, he finally managed to step on the animal’s neck, suffocating it.

Kauffman said it was “unfortunate” that the lion had to be killed. Run-ins like these, he said, are a reminder that nature can be truly wild, and we’d be wise to remember that.

He added that, had he been wearing headphones, he likely would have died, as he wouldn’t have heard the mountain lion sneaking up behind him.

Colorado is “lion country,” with a local population of roughly 3,000 to 7,000 of these big cats. The species (also known as cougar, puma, panther, and catamount) is somewhat elusive, and attacks on humans are rare, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Kauffman’s injuries required 16 stitches and a cocktail of antibiotics. So far, he’s healing well, and said in a press conference on Thursday that his newfound fame is for “an unearned reason.”

And while a mountain lion mauling objectively sucks, it did have one benefit.

“He knows that something’s up,” Kauffman said of his cat, Obie. “So he’s been extra nice to me.”