Earlier this month, the internet exploded with headlines about a trail runner in Colorado who managed to kill an attacking mountain lion with his bare hands. Initially, the identity of the man wasn’t revealed alongside the story. This prompted a great deal of speculation about the sort of guy who spends his free time running through the wilderness and engaging apex predators in mortal combat.
Last week, the world learned about this man. To the surprise of many, it wasn’t Dwayne Johnson’s stunt double, but rather a 150-pound environmental consultant named Travis Kauffman. At the beginning of the press conference, even Kauffman couldn’t help but ask how many reporters present were disappointed he wasn’t Chuck Norris.
The press conference revealed other details. Kauffman was slightly more than six miles into a projected 12-15 mile run through Lory State Park and Horsetooth Mountain Park, when he heard rustling in the bushes behind him.
“I turned around and was pretty bummed out to see a mountain lion,” Kauffman said. “I threw my hands up in the air and started shouting. It lunged at me. It was going toward my face so I threw up my hands to block.”
The mountain lion was a juvenile, according to wildlife officials that would later find its body. Young as it may have been, it also weighed between 80-100 pounds, making it more than capable of killing the slight-of-build, unarmed Kauffman.
“It grabbed onto my hand and wrist. I tried to throw it off me, and we took a little tumble down the south side of the trail and down there had a little wrestling match, at which point, I was able to get on top of it, and pin its back legs.”
The mountain lion kept Kauffman’s wrist clamped in its jaws while he scrambled to hit it with rocks and sticks. Finally, he was able to rearrange his weight and get a foot on the lion’s neck. The whole time, Kauffman knew the mountain lion’s young age meant there could be another, bigger cat nearby. Even as he thought he might finally have the upper hand, he worried that a murderous protective parent would easily finish him off.
“At that point, the fight would have been over quickly,” he said. “There was a point where I wasn’t sure I wasn’t going to make it out of it. I had that wave of fear roll over me that I would end up [staying] there. Luckily that wasn’t the case, and I am able to spend Valentine’s Day 2019 with my girlfriend, Annie.”
Once the mountain lion died, Kauffman–beaten and bleeding–ran another two miles before he was able to find help, where he received treatment for lacerations and puncture wounds, including 20 stitches on his wrist and face.
Watch Kauffman explain the ordeal below: