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Trail runner describes fight to the death with mountain lion in Larimer County

Posted at 12:48 PM, Feb 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-14 16:05:52-05

FORT COLLINS – The man who survived a mountain lion attack at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space by suffocating the animal asked the media today, “Show of hands. Who all is disappointed I am not in fact Chuck Norris?”

Travis Kauffman, a native of Arkansas who moved to Fort Collins five years ago to enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle described how he recognized an ambush was coming and how he survived. His advice? Don’t wear earbuds when running and go with a friend.

The trail runner described hearing something behind him while running on the West Ridge Trail. When he turned around, the mountain lion lunged at him, biting his face and wrist.

Travis Kauffman
Travis Kauffman and Annie Bierbouer embrace at our office. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Kauffman described how he was locked in a struggle with the mountain lion as it tried to go for his face while latched onto his wrist. Both went off the trail into the brush. He explained he has a housecat and knows how they behave on their backs, leading him to immobilize the rear legs quickly. Using his knee the mountain lion was subdued so he could eventually use a  foot across the neck to kill the animal.

He says it took about 10 minutes for the mountain lion to die before he was able to free his wrist and leave the area searching for help.

Kaufmann suffered non-life threatening wounds to his face and wrist. He’s a modest man who says he will never be able to live up to his reputation. “Chuck (Norris) would have come out without a scratch.”

His girlfriend Annie Bierbouer was in a meeting when he called to tell her about what happened. She recalled denying the call, then texting him. Bierbouer said she jumped out of her chair when she learned about the attack. “She totally didn’t believe it happened,” says Kauffman.

Annie and Travis
Annie Bierbouer and Travis Kauffman during CPW event.

Upon further investigation including examination of the mountain lion, CPW confirmed Kauffman suffocated the animal in order to survive.

The lion was taken to the CPW animal health lab for an autopsy and the Horsetooth Open Space area was closed for several days as a precaution. It has since reopened.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife says they received information from patrols in Larimer County on two additional mountain lions from the area in the days after the attack. Those younger lions were captured alive and are in good shape, but hungry. They will be moved to another location. There were no other lions found in the area.

The lion that died in the attack had blunt force trauma to the skull and had in fact been strangled to death. A necropsy discovered the big cat had been feeding on a lot of vegetation.

Mountain lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than 20 deaths in North America in more than a century.

Since 1990, Colorado has received reports of 16 mountain lion attacks, and 3 deaths.

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