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The Guy Who Fought Off a Mountain Lion Finally Told His Side of the Story

"I will never be able to live up to the reputation."

by River Donaghey
Feb 15 2019, 4:45pm

Photo by David Zalubowski / AP

Humans are the shittiest animals. Our nails are weak and our legs are slow and our skin is easily punctured by a set of sharp teeth. If it weren't for our brains and opposable digits, we'd be nothing more than tasty, bipedal morsels of flesh. But every once in a while, some truly badass human goes to battle against an apex predator and actually headbutts it into submission or whatever—and everyone collectively applauds them for making our species look even slightly respectable in the animal kingdom.

Just take earlier this month, when news broke that a Colorado trail runner somehow fought off a mountain lion that attacked him and somehow managed to kill it with his bare hands. "It’s an amazing story. Everyone is baffled and impressed,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife Rebecca Ferrell told the Denver Post at the time. "He had no weapons, no knives or trekking poles with him. How did he do it?"

The story immediately went viral, but details about the encounter were scant. Who was the runner, and how, exactly, did the epic battle between man and hungry beast go down? Well, on Thursday, the runner himself—31-year-old Travis Kauffman—came forward to share his side of the story, the Associated Press reports.

“I will never be able to live up to the reputation,” Kauffman said in a press conference Thursday. “The story is bigger than my puny form."

So here's what happened: According to Kauffman, the mountain lion attacked him during his run in the Colorado mountains just moments after he first noticed it standing ten feet away, watching him. He tried to scare it away, but the cougar pounced and locked its teeth onto Kauffman's wrist. The two fell to the ground and started wrestling, and eventually rolled off the trail.

His first shot at getting free from the animal didn't work. He stabbed it with some sticks and beaned it on the head with a rock, but the cat clung on.

"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,” Kauffman said. So he let loose a "barbarian yell" and went full Revenant on the thing.

"I was able to kind of shift my weight and get a foot on its neck," he said. From there, he managed to suffocate the mountain lion to death.

The struggle lasted about ten minutes, with Kauffman terrified the whole time that the young cougar's mother might show up and join in the fight. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who later recovered the mountain lion's body, the animal was less than six months old and only weighed 35 to 40 pounds. Since Kauffman barely made it out of a life-or-death battle with a juvenile cougar, it seems unlikely that the guy could've survived going up against one that was fully grown.

Once he got away from the cat, he ran off to look for help and eventually came across some other trail runners, who rushed the bleeding man to the emergency room. He wound up getting more than 24 stitches, he told KUNC. Kauffman said that the attack hasn't scared him off of trail running—though he did say he'll probably "go with a buddy" from now on.

"For the most part I don't feel any residual trauma from it," Kauffman told KUNC. "And I tend to like to move forward. That's kind of my personality."

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