Travis Kauffman Is No Chuck Norris, but He Did Kill a Mountain Lion

Travis Kauffman has been a cat dad for only about six months. But during that short time, he has observed that anytime he plays with his house cat, the cat will get on its back and “just kind of go crazy with his back legs and start scratching.”

This experience, he said at a news conference on Thursday, “was definitely a good thing to know” on the afternoon of Feb. 4, when Mr. Kauffman was attacked by a young mountain lion while running on a Northern Colorado trail.

LIVE || press conference featuring the trail runner who survived the Feb. 4 mountain lion attack.

The wisdom gleaned from his pet cat came to him, he said, as he was wrestling with the mountain lion — his wrist in its jaws, its teeth audibly grinding through his ligaments and tendons. And so fearing that the perhaps-50-pound cat would rip through his guts with its claws, he mounted it and used one of his knees to pin down its back legs.

Mr. Kauffman, 31, then tried to stab the cat in the throat with sticks, before trying to strike it in the head with a large rock. After both efforts failed to stop the attack, he shifted his body weight and contorted himself so he could step on the cat’s neck with his other foot.

After a few minutes, the mountain lion had suffocated, Mr. Kauffman said. Only then did it release his wrist from its jaw.

“There was a point,” he conceded, “where I was concerned I wasn’t going to make it out.” But managing to free himself, he then raced several miles back to safety on what he called a “fear high.” Along the way, he encountered a few helpful people, one of whom drove him to a hospital.

At the news conference, where he detailed the encounter publicly for the first time, he said it was weird “to feel kind of famous” for what he said was “an unearned reason.”

Since the attack, Mr. Kauffman has been lionized as officials have recounted the tale of him killing a mountain lion that was intent on killing him. While meeting with the news media, he was reminded that some have called him “The King of the North.”

His girlfriend, Annie Bierbower, who also spoke at the news conference, noted that some have remarked that Mr. Kauffman will not have any trouble getting dates. (She agrees that he will not, because she will be taking him on said dates.)

Mr. Kauffman, who is a lanky 5-foot-10 and about 150 pounds, opened his news conference by asking reporters whether they were disappointed that he was “not, in fact, Chuck Norris.”

“I know,” he added. “Pretty big letdown.”

And reminded of the “Game of Thrones” nickname he had been given, he was quick to admit: “I will never be able to live up to the reputation. And maybe that’s what has led to some of my reticence for actually coming out. The story is bigger than my puny form.”

Those self-deprecating remarks provided several moments of levity and good humor on Thursday as Mr. Kauffman recounted the details of the deadly serious attack, which left him with seven stitches along his cheek, six along the bridge of his nose and three on his wrist, which the mountain lion had latched on to. He wore the blue jacket he had on during the attack, and several cuts were visible on his face.

Despite somber introductions from wildlife officials who cautioned that there could have been “a much different outcome,” Mr. Kauffman said he felt great, was healing well and has started running again with the intention of training for a race. With wildlife officials accompanying him, he has already returned to the trail where he was mauled.

He plans to run there again. But in the future, he said, he will do his trail runs with a friend. And he urged other runners to do so, too.

Mr. Kauffman, of Fort Collins, Colo., also urged other runners not to listen to music while running. Had he put any devices in his ears as he was running along the West Ridge Trail at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, he might not have heard the pine needles rustle behind him, which alerted him to the mountain lion.

In a video interview played during the news conference, Mr. Kauffman said that after the mountain lion attacked, he threw his arms up and tried to protect his face. Then he started screaming, doing a sort of “barbarian yell.” Then came a wrestling match, the pin and, eventually, the strangulation.

All along, Mr. Kauffman said later, he had feared that the young mountain lion’s mother would come along and end the fight. Wildlife officials said they trapped two other young mountain lions in the days after Mr. Kauffman was ambushed and that both appeared to have been hungry.

Mr. Kauffman said Thursday that he had not returned to the environmental consulting company where he works.

As for Mr. Kauffman’s relationship with his pet cat, Obie: “He knows that something’s up,” Mr. Kauffman said, “so he’s been extra nice to me.”

Julia Jacobs contributed reporting.

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