Kyle Burgess is feeling very lucky after a terrifying encounter with a mother cougar while out trail running in Utah last weekend.
Burgess told BuzzFeed News he's an outdoorsy kind of guy who regularly goes for trail runs in the picturesque mountain areas near his home in Orem, Utah. On Saturday, he was doing a loop through the foothills when he saw some animals.
"I didn’t know exactly what they were; I’m not an animal expert. I’d seen bobcats before on the trail, and I thought they were bobcats," he said.
He pulled out his phone to take some photos, something he often does on a run — but then, he said, the situation "did a full 180."
"After I took the first couple of steps, that’s when the mama saw me. And I realized these are not bobcats; these are baby cougars," he said. "And mama did not like that."
"In the video, you hear me, like, oh crap, oh crap, this is happening," he said.
He started backing up, with his phone still in hand, as the clearly unhappy cougar followed him.
"I was the one who was obviously in the wrong because I was close to her baby cubs," he said. "I had to get away from those cubs, so that’s why I started backing up as much as I could."
What followed was over six terrifying minutes as the mom followed Burgess, sometimes charging forward in a threatening manner with her teeth bared. He managed to record the whole thing, including his expletive-laden reactions and his attempts to scare the cougar off with loud noises.
"Fuck you, dude!" he tells the cougar at one point, telling it to "please go away."
"Come on, dude, I don't feel like dying today!"
He also posted the video on Instagram, where it's been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
As he backed away, he tried shouting at the cougar and making his body as big as possible.
Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, he was able to crouch down, find a rock to throw, and scare her away.
"Mountain lions are very, very strong animals. They can take down moose and bear — so I knew that if she wanted to take me out, I would have been taken out," he said.
"I knew that since she didn’t already attack, she was just protecting her cubs."
Scott Root, an outreach manager with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said Burgess reacted correctly.
"From what I can tell, he wasn’t trying to get too close or anything. It was too late. So he started backing up, which you want to do," Root told BuzzFeed News. "He stayed tall, stayed big, and made a lot of noise, and that is what I was proud to see."
Root said the behavior was clearly the cougar protecting her cubs, not a predator looking for a meal.
He added that although cougars are common in the foothills due to plentiful deer, an encounter like this with a human is rare.
"We want people to realize, first of all, that we’re not out to get the mountain lion, because she was being a good mom," he said.
He recommended investing in a can of bear spray as a nonlethal way to protect yourself from animals while on mountain trails.
As for Burgess, he's happy to be alive and well and isn't afraid to get back out on the trail.
"I’m not perfect. Maybe there are tons of other ways I could have handled the situation, but right now I know I handled it as best I could have, and I’m alive," he said.
"Hopefully it never happens again, but in the future I'll just being more cautious about what animals I do come up on, and before I get closer, take a better look at the animal."