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'It was a 10-minute full-on fight for survival': runner recounts killing Colorado mountain lion

Travis Kauffman said he had to hit the big cat over the head with a rock and suffocated it after being ambushed

Travis Kauffman hit the mountain lion over the head with a rock before stepping on its neck and suffocating it. AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Travis Kauffman hit the mountain lion over the head with a rock before stepping on its neck and suffocating it. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

A Colorado runner who survived a mountain lion attack by suffocating the animal said the encounter that has made him the stuff of legend was "a fight for survival".

"One of the thoughts that I was having was: 'Well this would be a pretty crappy way to die'," Travis Kauffman said in his first public comments about the February 4 attack.

Mr Kauffman had to have more than two dozen stitches to close wounds on his cheeks and nose.

"It very much turned into just a full-on fight for survival," the 31-year-old said on Thursday.

A mountain lion is commonly known as a cougar or a puma. Jonathan Wiggs / The Boston Globe via Getty Images
A mountain lion is commonly known as a cougar or a puma. Jonathan Wiggs / The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Mr Kauffman said he had gone out for a run when he was ambushed by the 36-kilogramme cat.

"I heard some pine needles rustling behind me and I stopped and turned," he said.

Mr Kauffman said he felt his heart sink as he processed the situation and raised his hands and began screaming to try and scare the animal as it rushed toward him.

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

Mr 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.

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.

A young cougar shows its teeth at a zoo in the US. Carl D Walsh / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
A young cougar shows its teeth at a zoo in the US. Carl D Walsh / Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

"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," he said.

"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."

Praise for quick thinking

The whole episode lasted about 10 minutes, after which Kauffman said he ran off, terrified that other mountain lions may be lurking.

He said he found another runner and some hikers who gave him water and drove him to a hospital.

Mr Kauffman said while the adrenaline rush and survival instinct helped him overcome the encounter, the fact that he chose not to use his earphones to listen to music that day also played a part.

"For the most part, I don't feel any residual trauma," he told KUNC radio. "I tend to move forward, this is my personality."

Travis Kauffman, a trail runner who fought off a mountain lion in Colorado embraces Annie Bierbouer. Courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife / Handout via Reuters
Travis Kauffman, a trail runner who fought off a mountain lion in Colorado embraces Annie Bierbouer. Courtesy of Colorado Parks & Wildlife / Handout via Reuters

Authorities have praised his quick-thinking, saying he handled the situation just right.

"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," said Mark Leslie, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager.

"These animals are ambush predators, and are trained to take quick and lethal action whenever possible."

Updated: February 15, 2019 05:21 PM

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