A young mountain lion that was strangled last month by a Colorado jogger the animal attacked was a 4-month-old orphan, state wildlife officials have revealed.
According to a necropsy, the young male had weighed an estimated 35 or 40 pounds. The inexperienced hunter may have been desperate for prey when he pounced on 31-year-old Travis Kauffman on a scenic trail in Fort Collins.
The mountain lion’s body, which had been partially eaten, likely by his two orphaned siblings, was recovered Feb. 4, the day of the attack.
Officials saw no trace of a mother, according to the necropsy by Colorado Parks and Wildlife veterinarians, which referred to the dead male as a “kitten,” though young mountain lions are usually called cubs.
“Mountain lions are solitary animals, only coming together for breeding,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Jason Clay told NBC News on Friday. “We had no signs of an adult female being anywhere near the scene that day, or in the following days, which is one reason why we think these kittens were orphaned.” Mountain lions are raised by their mothers alone.
Officials don’t know what happened to the mother, but mountain lions are often killed by cars. The two siblings were captured and taken to a wildlife rehabilitation center, The Coloradoan reported. They will eventually be released back into the wild.
The necropsy findings supported Kauffman’s account of choking the cub, striking him on the head with a rock, then stepping on his throat to kill him.
Kauffman, who needed 28 stitches after the attack, said the cat lunged at him, tripped him, locked his jaws on his wrist and began clawing at his face. As the jogger battled the cougar, he was worried the mother would dart out of the woods to join her cub.
Necropsy findings “supported the description of events given by the victim,” according to the state report, The Coloradoan said. “The cause of death was determined to be multi-factorial including blunt trauma and strangulation.”
The mountain lion was clearly “hungry but not starving,” in fair condition with no sign of disease, and he tested negative for rabies, according to the report.
Wildlife officials said that, even though the cougar was young, Kauffman was right to save himself from serious injury or even death. There was dried blood in the mountain lion’s paws, but officials did not reveal if it was from Kauffman, The Coloradoan reported.
“The runner did everything he could to save his life. In the event of a lion attack, you need to do anything in your power to fight back, just as this gentleman did,” Mark Leslie, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Northeast Region manager.
Three people have been killed by mountain lions in Colorado since 1990.