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home : columns : ron kuecker
April 21, 2019

2/27/2019 10:52:00 AM
Cougar and jogger trail fight in Colorado

Ron Kuecker
Outdoors Columnist

Above Ft. Collins, Colo., lies the Horsetooth Mountain trail system. Those trails are frequented regularly by the joggers from the college town below.
Also in those mountains are lions we call cougars, raising their young. And, if it's a big litter of more than two, catching food is sometimes hard to "come by."
On Feb. 4 of this year a jogger was attacked by a young 40-pound cougar (probably six to eight months old). A hand to jaw fight ensued and luckily the human prevailed; which wouldn't have been the case if it had been a mature mountain lion.
Travis Kauffman heard a rustling in the pine needles behind him as he jogged along. He turned to see a cougar ready to pounce on him. He swung around facing it and began hollering and waving his arms. But to no avail, the young "catamount" leaped for his face, teeth bared.
Travis threw up his hands in self-defense and the cat buried its fangs into his hand and wrist. Then it began raking him with its hind legs and sharp claws. Luckily he had on a pair of gloves and two pairs of jogging clothes.
He said two weeks later in an interview the cat would not let go of his hand and, the front claws that wrapped around him to his back seemed anchored in his flesh. They both fell to the ground and with his weight he was able to get on top of the young cat.
He first grabbed a stick and tried stabbing with his free hand. When that failed he grabbed a good-sized rock and hit it in the head a couple of times. But still the teeth and claws held him in the attempted death grip.
When all that failed, he was able to bring one of his feet forward and placed it on the neck and held it there until the cat expired.
He made his way quickly down the mountain fearing other cougars might be nearby. At the trailhead he met some other runners who helped him get to the emergency room.
The trails were closed immediately and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife eventually caught other siblings nearby. They were taken to a rehab facility for later release in a more remote area. The trails are open again with precautionary warnings.
If the fight had ended differently and the young cougars had fed on the dead human body maybe a whole litter could have turned into man eaters.
Man-eating leopard
Think not? Well ponder this. A century ago and a half globe away such was the case of the man-eating leopard of Rudraprayag, India. (It's a full book story that has sold hundreds of thousands of copies).
There it was that the man-eating leopard, a cat family member about equal in size to a cougar, terrorized the native population for eight years, killing over 125 people. It was hunted by professionals, an army was sent there, traps were set and poison put out but to no avail for most of those eight years.
Then Jim Corbett, famous for his pursuit of both man-eating leopards and tigers offered his services. In 10 weeks he was able to use his skills of tracking and patterning the big cat and shot it to death in early 1926.
Jim theorized the cat had first developed its taste for human flesh by feeding on unburied humans that had died during the worldwide outbreak of influenza in 1918. He went on to become a major leader in saving native habitat in India and has a national forest named in his honor.
In Rudraprayag, the people have a fair each year commemorating the day he killed the man eater.
Local things
Meanwhile back in Windom, and much of Minnesota, we are experiencing one of the toughest February winters on record. Don Dulski, a former Windom teacher and teammate of mine, called from Park Rapids this morning. It was -25 degrees Fahrenheit there.
The resident wildlife seemed to be hanging on until the last nine inches of snow in Windom. Then came the 35-mph winds of last weekend and the sub-zero temps this morning.
Just last week before the storm I spotted a flock of 12 to 14 pheasants along Highway 13 a couple miles west of the gun club. They appeared very stressed as they searched the snowplow scraped shoulders for food.
Then in a snow-covered field with no nearby shelter I spotted a fawn from this spring, scratching through the snow with its front feet looking for a few soybeans. It was thin and rough coated.
One of the hens in that flock of pheasants had most of its feathers tipped outward. I suspect snow had blown under its feathers. I doubt that it survived the next night.
Meanwhile, the local Cottonwood County Game and Fish League approved $1,000 to provide more corn to be available at the DNR headquarters.
Honored who?
This past week the Minnesota legislature honored the retiring Minnesota DNR head of their game and fish department. He was the guy that pushed our local USFWS director to discontinue the food plot on their acreage at Wolf Lake when he was their regional director.
The Cottonwood County Game and Fish League protested strongly based on its necessity to save wildlife in tough winters such as this. We estimated that we nourished around 50 pheasants and 25 to 30 deer there every winter.
Now the flowers that have replaced the corn are covered with a foot of snow and there are no pheasants or deer.
I vacillate between sad and mad.

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