The Colorado trail runner who killed a young mountain lion with his bare hands after it pounced on him survived by whacking the animal with a rock, wrestling the cat to the ground, and using his whole body to choke it to death, state park and wildlife officials said.
New accounts of what happened offer the first new details about the encounter that quickly became a viral, international story.
The man, who is in his thirties and has not been identified, left the hospital Tuesday morning and is “doing well considering his ordeal,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife tweeted Wednesday.
He suffered bite wounds across his face and arms, and he was treated and tested for viruses and infections, including rabies.
“It’s definitely not something you hear every day,” Rebecca Ferrell, spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, told BuzzFeed News Thursday. “We know it sounds hard to believe, but his survival instinct kicked in and he did what he had to do.”
Ferrell went into more detail as to how the man, who she described as a “decent trail runner,” was able to fend off the wild cat alone, in the middle of nowhere, and then drive himself to the hospital.
On Monday, the man had been running on West Ridge, a popular trail in Larimer County’s Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, a 2,711-acre wildlife area near Fort Collins, when he heard a noise behind him.
He turned around and locked eyes with a young mountain lion near the trail, which had been stalking him, Ferrell said, noting that the cat was less than a year old and “was probably just learning how to hunt.”
“He was a juvenile and didn’t know the risk versus reward of attacking a human versus an animal,” she said. “It was startled by something running and decided to pounce.”
At first, the runner froze, then he started making a lot of noise, yelling and waving his arms above his head to try to scare off the wild animal.
“He never turned his back. He knew what to do,” Ferrell said, adding that the trail runner had “read up on stories and educated himself on what to do in that position.”
“He did everything we tell people to do,” she added.
But the mountain lion still pounced, biting the man’s face, head, and neck.
Fighting for his life, the runner was able to lodge his arm into the animal’s jaws, its fangs digging into his wrist as the two tussled down to the ground. Scrambling, he grabbed a rock from the trail and started hitting the lion in the head, but the cat would not let go.
“That’s when his survival instincts kicked in,” Ferrell said.
Somehow, the runner locked his free arm around the lion’s neck and the two wrestled in the dirt until the man was able to get both arms free. He sprung up, jumped on the startled cat’s back, and used his weight, arms, and legs to choke the young cat until it stopped breathing, the wildlife official continued.
With the animal lifeless and sprawled on the trail, the runner bolted for his car, which was about a mile and a half down the trail, and he drove himself to the hospital.
The runner’s astounding story of survival swept across the media this week, stunning readers and spurring theories that either the runner is a Chuck Norris–esque trained fighter, or something was amiss.
But Ferrell and wildlife officials contend that the man is telling the truth and that, after he told them his story, park officers went to investigate the incident and found the dead lion and the runner’s scattered possessions right where he said they would be.
“Even though we have a healthy population of mountain lions in the area, it is very rare for something like this to occur,” she said. “Most people are lucky to get a glimpse of a lion, let alone have to wrestle one for your life.”
Wildlife officials are still waiting for the necropsy results, which will provide more detailed information on the mountain lion’s injuries and cause of death.
Colorado rangers, meanwhile, have temporarily closed that portion of the park, “out of an abundance of caution” to allow a “cooling off period.”
Nick Clark, an experienced trail runner from Fort Collins, said he heard that the man was “quite new to trail running.”
Clark helps lead the trail running group Gnar Runners and had been running in Horsetooth earlier that day.
“[Getting attacked] is not something you think about when you’re out there,” he said. “We see their tracks from time to time, but it’s good to remember that they are always watching.”