LOS ANGELES: A Colorado trail runner who survived a mountain lion attack by suffocating the animal said on Thursday that the encounter that has made him the stuff of legend was "a fight for survival."
"One of the thoughts that I was having was: 'Well this would be a pretty crappy way to die'," Travis Kauffman told reporters in his first public comments about the February 4 attack.
"It very much turned into just a full-on fight for survival," added the 31-year-old who had to have more than two dozen stitches to close wounds on his cheeks and nose.
Kauffman said he had gone out for a run when he was ambushed by the 80-pound (36-kilogram) cat.
"I heard some pine needles rustling behind me and I stopped and turned," he recalled.
Kauffman, who is of slight build, said he felt his heart sink as he processed the situation and raised his hands and began screaming to try and scare the animal as it rushed toward him.
"Unfortunately, it kept running and then it eventually just lunged at me and ... its jaws locked into my hand and wrist," he said.
Kauffman said that as he and the mountain lion were locked in battle, they tumbled down a trail and he managed to get the upper hand as the cat ended up on its back.
He said he was able to pin the animal's hind legs with his feet and hit it with a rock over the head before stepping on its neck and suffocating it.
"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," he said. "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."
Praise for quick thinking
The whole episode lasted about 10 minutes, after which Kauffman said he ran off, terrified that other mountain lions may be lurking about.
He said he eventually linked up with another runner and some hikers who gave him water and drove him to a hospital.
Kauffman said while the adrenaline rush and survival instinct helped him overcome the encounter, the fact that he chose not to use his earphones to listen to music that day also played a part.
"For the most part, I don't feel any residual trauma," he told KUNC radio. "I tend to move forward, this is my personality."
Authorities have praised his quick-thinking, saying he handled the situation just right.
"We all feel extremely lucky that this attack was made by a young mountain lion on a knowledgeable runner, otherwise we may have been hosting a very different press conference," said Mark Leslie, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife manager. "These animals are ambush predators, and are trained to take quick and lethal action whenever possible."