Colorado runner Travis Kauffman spoke publicly for the first time on Thursday at a news conference about his encounter with a mountain lion that attacked him during a run, saying that it was "like a wrestling match."
Kauffman set out to go for a 12-15-mile run in Lory State Park near Fort Collins, Col., on Feb. 4 but had to change his route due to icy conditions. He heard icy pine needles rustling behind him and turned around to see a mountain lion, Kauffman shared Thursday.
"I just had my heart sink into my stomach a little bit," he added.
The 31-year-old trail runner said he put his hands up and started yelling. The juvenile lion was 10 feet away but kept getting closer and eventually latched onto Kauffman's wrist with his jaws.
"It was going up towards my face so I threw up my hands to kind of block my face, at which point it grabbed onto my hand and wrist and from there it started to claw at my face and neck,” Kauffman said.
Kauffman said that his “fear response turned into more of a fight response” after he was ambushed by the animal–and that’s what saved his life. The two were caught in what he described as a wrestling match. Kauffman tried to stab the lion with sticks after pinning down its back legs. When that failed, he hit the lion in the head with a rock that he managed to grab.
While attempting to bash the animal's head with the rock, his arm was still stuck in the cat's jaws, which made it hard for him to swing. He eventually managed to escape with his life after suffocating the mountain lion by stepping on its neck.
“I was able to shift my weight and get a foot on its neck," Kauffman said. "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—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."
Kauffman had to run approximately three more miles to get out of the park entirely before a park visitor close to a trailhead gave him a ride to the hospital.
The park was closed after the attack but reopened this week. Larimer County officials said they removed additional lions that they believed to be siblings of the juvenile lion involved in Kauffman's attack.