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Travis Kauffman vs. the Mountain Lion

How an Instinctual Response to Danger Saved a Man’s Life


Patrick R. Field
Department of Biological Sciences
Kean University
Cheynya M. Johnson-Brimley
Biological Sciences
Kean University


This case study is based on an actual mountain lion (cougar) attack that occurred in Horsetooth Mountain Park, Colorado. The case details the steps that led to the attack, the ensuing struggle, and how Travis Kauffman ultimately survived by killing the cougar. The purpose of the case is to examine the factors, including animal behavior and the human sympathetic nervous system, which resulted in Travis’ survival. More specifically, the case examines the actions of Travis, the possible ramifications of the injuries sustained during the attack, the methods used to fight the cougar, the value of the sympathetic nervous system and the “fight-or-flight” response, and alternative outcomes had circumstances been different. The case also considers features specific to mountain lions that factored into the attack including general behavior, hunting patterns, and anatomy. This case is appropriate for upper-level undergraduate or graduate students with a good understanding of human body systems and the sympathetic nervous response as well as an introductory level of knowledge in animal behavior. The case may be used in courses such as anatomy and physiology, neuroscience, zoology, health education, and other upper-level biology courses.


  • Apply knowledge of human anatomy, specifically relating to the circulatory and nervous systems, to assess possible injuries involved in an animal (cougar) attack.
  • Analyze the effects of the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system in humans for survival during an animal attack.
  • Discuss possible outcomes of an animal attack by correlating knowledge of animal anatomy and hunting behavior with physical characteristics of the location of the attack.
  • Examine the physical, physiological, and behavioral, characteristics of the predator and prey when determining survival in an animal attack.


Animal attack; sympathetic nervous system; hunting behavior; mountain lion; cougar;

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion



Subject Headings

Anatomy  |   Biology (General)  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Veterinary Science  |   Zoology  |  

Date Posted


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