No, The Mountain Lion That Travis Kauffman Killed Was Not 24 lb Nor Starving
Over the last couple days, there has been a wave of media attention resurfacing the story of Travis Kauffman, the trail runner who strangled a mountain lion in the outskirts of Fort Collins, CO. The assertions have claimed that new evidence has been presented to show that the cat was significantly smaller than originally reported. One such example is quoted below, from thisisinsider.com:
“Officials initially guessed that the mountain lion weighed about 35 to 40 pounds and was a year old. But now, a final necropsy has revealed that the cat was even younger and smaller than those early estimates.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife veterinarians identified the dead lion as a “kitten” that weighed 24 pounds and was about 3 to 4 months old, according to the Coloradoan.
That information gives credence to a possible explanation for why this encounter happened: The young mountain lion may have been orphaned or starving, or both.”
This is sloppy reporting, to put it kindly.
First and foremost, the necropsy of this mountain lion took place on Feb. 4. Here’s the official release from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Wildlife Health Lab, the agency that ran the examination. There has been only one necropsy of the cougar.
The agency that ran the necropsy, makes at least two claims that contradict the above quote. Below are the key takeaways:
“The weight at necropsy was 24 lbs, although the estimated weight of the full carcass prior to scavenging was 35-40 lbs.” The reports you’re seeing about a 24 lb mountain lion are referring to the cat’s weight after it had been partially eaten. According to Ty Petersburg, Area Wildlife Manager at Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department of Natural Resources, “one front quarter had been eaten and its entrails and sex organs were removed by animals.”
“There was no evidence of underlying disease in the tissues examined, although most of the internal organs were absent (scavenged). Limited fat reserves in the carcass suggested the mountain lion was hungry but not starving. Rabies testing was negative.” The report clearly states that the young cougar was not starving, though Petersburg adds that “the necropsy showed a higher amount of vegetative matter in the system of cat number one than usual.”
Though the heading of the necropsy summary indicates that the mountain lion was 3-4 months old, this estimate was later adjusted to 4-5 months (what’s written in the body of the report) after the cat’s siblings had been brought into the rehabilitation center for examination, according to Petersburg.
It’s possible these discrepancies may not change anyone’s mind about the incident, but the public at least deserves to be equipped with the facts before coming to a conclusion.
The Danger of a Mountain Lion “Kitten” Attack
Though many equate the term with a cute, cuddly house pet, this image is not consistent with the actual threat. Male mountain lions are classified as “kittens” up until one year. When asked what percentage of people are making it out alive in Kauffman’s situation, Petersburg responded simply, “I think he is probably one of the rare ones.”
“These animals are ambush predators and are trained take quick and lethal actions whenever possible. Though the mountain lion in this scenario was young, you’ll clearly see the damage that even a young lion can do when it attacks. These lions are especially powerful,” said one of the representatives from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department of Natural Resources at Kauffman’s press conference.
“(Kauffman) did all the right things. He put his hands up, he yelled at it, and it still came after him,” says Petersburg.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this news resurfacing is the perception of the story evolving since Kauffman came public on Feb. 14. At the press conference, he verbally gestures to the size of the cat, estimated its size at 50 lb (32:01), and admitted that when he first went to the hospital, he second-guessed if it was even a mountain lion, thinking it could have possibly been a bobcat (15:33).
You can watch Kauffman’s full Q&A with the press, which took place on Feb. 14, below. Video, notes, and editorial assistance courtesy of Juliana Chauncey.
3:40 – 6:30 – Describing mountain lion attack.
8:00 – 8:20 – Talking about the biggest fear being the mom coming back, states it’s a younger cat and not fully grown.
“One of my big fears throughout the whole thing was another cat coming along, because it was a younger cat and I could tell it wasn’t fully grown, and I was just very concerned that mom was going to come out of nowhere, and at that point that fight would be over pretty quickly.”
10:32 – 10:53 – “It’s weird to feel famous for an unearned reason. It’s very much a situation of happenstance, like a wrong place, wrong time, instead of an earned degree of fame.”
15:33 – 16:01 – Second-guessed if it was a mountain lion, thought it could have been a bobcat.
“Did you instantly know what kind of animal you were dealing with?”
“Yeah, um, I kind of second-guessing myself when I was talking to Jason, who is the first officer I spoke to, after the beginning I was like, ‘well, I’m pretty sure it was a mountain lion,’ then he was like, ‘do you think it might’ve been a bobcat’ and I was like, ‘uh, it could’ve been a bobcat, I didn’t really look at the tail too much, I was looking at teeth a lot’… but yeah, I pretty quickly recognized it was a lion.’”
16:24 – 16:31 – Travis: 31 years old, 5’10, 150lbs
19:42 – 19:47 – “Strength-wise, do you think that because it was a smaller cat that you were pretty evenly matched?”
25:20 – 25:39 – Describing having to kill the cat: “It really clicked when I hit it with a rock and it still wouldn’t release my wrist that at that point more drastic measures were necessary.”
26:50 – 27:22 – Thoughts on why it attacked: “In this particular age range is their most aggressive and I think also for the fact that it wasn’t an experienced hunter it couldn’t readily identify me as ‘not prey’ so it was definitely pursuing me as why I was prey, but I think that was why.”
32:01 – 32:23 – “If I were to guess I would say in the 50lb range, I couldn’t say for sure. I know they had trouble getting an actual weight because of the potentially cannibalistic behavior after the fact.”
33:30 – 33:56 – “You had said, if this had been a fuller cat, a bigger cat, a more experienced hunter, that the outcome might’ve been quite different from what it was?”
“Yeah, I would say the outcome would’ve… yeah… that the cat would’ve come out on top… but, also knowing what I now know, what I’ve learned recently about cats, that’s really highly atypical behavior for an adult, they tend to know what is prey and what is not prey.”
34:08 – 34:36 – “You seem reluctant to be in the spotlight. Did you have any thoughts about not coming forward at all?”
“Yeah, a little bit, but I also kind of heard that once an investigation comes to a close that the name is open for release through Colorado Open Records Act, so at least at that point I can tell my story first and foremost and kind of get in front of it a little bit.”
37:31 – 37:40 – “How long were the claws?”
“I couldn’t say for sure, maybe the size of the first part of the digit” (pointing to the tip of his pointer finger to his first knuckle).
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Isn’t this the exact argument in the comment section we had on the original article about this attack?
… I like turtles
Thank you for the clarification. I have a nine pound feral cat which is now domesticated. I understand the threat of a wild 40 pound “kitten.”
Too bad for the cat you had to jog in his yard. Go jog on black top. If you stood on this cats neck to suffocate it , if it was a larger CAT and healthy it would tore your freaking shoes off and flip over and torn up. The fish story gets bigger.
You milked this cat story long enough.
How much money did you make on this one.
Cat is dead thanks to you. Sick of hearing u are a hero.
What ego trip u on. Get a job. O yea u got one.
Hey don’t get between a mother bear and her Cubs. Your foot is not big enough.
Who really knows . Cat is dead!!!!. Or juvenile kitten cub.
^^^he is right u know^^^
Who are you talking to? The guy that wrote the article isn’t the guy who liked the cat. Not is anyone in the comments. Nobody is denying that circumstances made the situation happen, though I’ll point out that there are plenty of wild animal attacks in parks and backyards, due to encroaching civilization. Should humans only be in cities now? I live in the country, surrounded by woods, a pretty green eco friendly property. Should I move because I might have an encounter with a wolf?
Killed* not liked, blasted autocorrect
Go put your punk ass out there. You want to be cougar food, fine. You are a PETA asshole and I hope you get in the same situation. You will be cougar shit. Asshole
I’d LOVE to see all you people trashing this young man have to go head to head with an exact copy of this” kitten” you all think is so helpless, you are so stupid and uninformed as to the absolute deadly capabilities this “kitten” possessed. Not to mention the USFS and Wildlife authorities are far more knowledgeable than you are and they said he was lucky to be alive…they KNOW… YOU are playing off the “kitten” aspect, thinking no doubt of a helpless housecat, when in fact this is an apex predator at its most aggressive and least capable of distinguishing Prey from NOT prey stage of its life. And this “kitten” is more than capable of killing you if you don’t act fast and decisively. ALL of you armchair quarterbacks should just simply shut the hell up unless you can say you’ve fought off a similar attack…not scared off mind you, but actually had to fight off. Idiots… Probably PETA wannabes….people who value the life of an animal over human life… Again, IDIOTS…I can’t stress that enough!!!
I’ve been attacked by a 700 pound tiger. I’m not saying a 40 pound animal can’t kill you but I know for a fact there are other ways to get him off rather than killing it. He could have also stopped after it has passed out. I respect all life but I don’t think his story quite adds up because I knocked the tiger out with a rock.
A 4-5 month old kitten mountain lion has very weak jaw strength; big cats kill through using bite force to either clamp the windpipe and causing death through asphyxiation or biting through the skull – a very young cat would simply not have the capability to do this; however, they can cause serious lacerations by using their claws. It is extremely unlikely that such an immature cat could kill anything and it would be dependent on its mother to kill and provide food. Having said all of this the guy was expecting the mother to turn up at any moment and was desperate to do what ever was necessary to extricate himself and get away.
Thank you for reporting this, I’ve been getting annoyed at all the media saying “starving, orphan kitten”. Big coyote and small wolves are around 50lb nobody denies how dangerous they can be when attacking, why should a 50lb cat be any less dangerous?
That’s what a wild preadetor gets for messing with the king of preadetor,,,(human) if a cougar attacked you of any size I hope u would fight for your life!!!
I would expect any person to fight anyway they had to in ord to win. Monday morning quarterbacks have clue. Dude looked like he got into a fight with a lawnmower. There is no virtue in being killed and eaten.
What happened to civility in this country? I just do not get it. Why? What reason, what intent, what purpose is served with the mocking? There has to be a need for the belittlement being displayed. Anger, a nameless, faceless, anonymous bulling but why?
Without belittling the man’s injuries I do believe we humans have caused enough destruction to animal habitat that its unfair to encroach upon what little space they have left and then episodes like this happen and we start blaming the animals leading to more destruction.
I surely would not want to be in that runner’s position, kitten or no kitten but people should seriously consider staying out of ‘wilderness’ and exercising in parks and on black top of which there is plenty.
Are you guys who are saying this is the guy’s fault for getting attacked okay? Should we all just stay in our house or in the city from now on? What if you go hiking in a national park and a coyote, wolf, bear, mountain lion, bobcat, etc – attacked you…? Would you just roll over and let it kill you? Even if you say no – your primal survival instincts will TAKE OVER your urge to feel compassion for the animal. Everyone who thinks any differently have never been in that kind of situation. So, unless you have, shhhhhh.
Of course Travis had every right to defend himself. The bigger question/issue is the perception versus reality of mountain lion attacks. The interesting question (we’ll likely never know the answer to) is whether sport hunting of cougars in Colorado–legal from late November through late March I think–was the proximate cause of these hungry orphaned juveniles. Killing of mothers with kittens is illegal, but mothers often don’t travel with young, and females without young are ‘fair game,’ so not hard to imagine sport hunting creating orphans without food supplies taking desperate measures like attacking this man. But of course “state wildlife officials” are likely not real interested in this line of inquiry…