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Colorado Runner Kills Mountain Lion With His Bare Hands - Carlos Gamino
News from Attorney Carlos Gamino

Colorado Runner Kills Mountain Lion With His Bare Hands

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By Carlos Gamino

“Well, this would be a pretty crappy way to die.” That’s what 31-year-old Travis Kauffman thought as he fought off a mountain lion in a desperate bid to save his own life.

Kaufmann was jogging near Fort Collins, Colorado, when a mountain lion pounced from the pines and attacked. 

“Its jaws locked onto my hand and wrist, and pretty much stayed there the whole time,” said Kaufmann. The mountain lion wrapped itself around his body and dug its claws into his back. The pair tumbled down a hill and into a gully about 20 feet off the trail, struggling for about 10 minutes before killing the mountain lion by suffocating it. 

Fortunately, Kaufmann didn’t have his headphones in that day. He said that normally, he does run while listening to music – but he chose not to, and that may have been what saved his life. He heard rustling behind him as he stopped to enjoy a view, and turned to see the big cat waiting to pounce.

The mountain lion was a juvenile, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, that weighed between 35 and 40 pounds. The organization determined that the cat’s death was due to asphyxiation.

Mountain lion attacks aren’t that common. In Colorado, where this one attacked, Kaufmann was the 22nd person to be attacked since 1990. In Wisconsin, there haven’t been any reported fatalities – but they are native to our state. They’re the largest wildcat in North America, at least north of Mexico, and they can get pretty tremendous. An adult male can weigh up to 160 pounds and be 95 inches long (and 31 inches high at the shoulder). 

Mountain lions – also called pumas or cougars – should always be considered unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Usually, they run from humans… but not always. You can protect yourself if you see one by:

  • Taking even a brief glimpse seriously. Group together and travel carefully.
  • Making your presence known by singing or talking loudly to scare it off.
  • Traveling in pairs or larger groups.
  • Staying on established trails, and only going out during daylight hours.
  • Watching for signs of mountain lion use on trails, like scat, scratch piles and claw marks.
  • Keeping far away from kittens, because the mother is nearly always nearby.

Never approach any mountain lion for any reason. If you encounter one, make yourself appear as large as possible: stand tall, open your jacket or raise your arms. Don’t break eye contact or turn your back on the mountain lion, either. Never bend or crouch down – and if you need to pick up kids or pets, do it without making yourself appear smaller or signaling that you could be a prey animal. Your main goal is to make it look like you’re dangerous to the mountain lion’s survival.

What Do You Think?

Did you read about the jogger’s experience? If you jog on trails, are you ready for a chance encounter with a mountain lion or other wildlife? I’d love to hear what you think, so please share your thoughts on my  Facebook page or on Twitter.

Carlos Gamino