Kyle Burgess, an Orem resident, recently started trail running. His favorite run is the loop that starts at the Y trail and goes through Slate Canyon.
While on his regular run, Burgess went through a range of emotions, running into a cougar and its cubs.
“I start at the Y Canyon trail, but you can actually keep going up into that canyon and come down Slate Canyon to the parking lot,” Burgess said. “That’s kind of what my plan was. Coming down Slate Canyon I ended up seeing some wildlife, which is a normal occurrence for me. I have seen bobcats on the trail before so I normally take out my phone and start taking some pictures. It’s always fun to take pictures of wildlife I see on the trail to show my friends and family. This time, obviously, was very different.”
As Burgess took out his phone and started videotaping, he quickly realized that he was looking at cougar cubs. That’s when an adult cougar turned the corner and began heading in his direction.
In the video posted to Burgess’ YouTube channel, he quickly realized what was going on and began retreating.
At one point in the first minute of the encounter, Burgess began yelling at the cougar in an attempt to scare it off. The cougar snarled back.
“You’re good, little kitty cat,” Burgess said in the video. “What’s up, dude? Nice and slow.”
The retreat continued for the six-minute long video as the cougar continued to follow Burgess.
“Go get your babies,” Burgess said to the cougar in the video.
Every time he would take his eyes off the cougar, crouch down to pick up a rock or stumble on some rocks, the cougar would charge at him.
In the video, the cougar is seen pouncing at him with both front paws in the air.
“Honestly, those pounces were probably the scariest part,” Burgess said.
At the end of the video, Burgess picks up a rock and throws it at the cougar, which then runs away.
Burgess begins to scream in joy. The only thing left for him was to decide where he would go next. Burgess could either continue the way he was going, to where he originally encountered the cougar, or turn back and have a long trip to where he started his run.
With the help of his father-in-law’s advice, Burgess waited 30 minutes and continued the way he was going.
“I started heading back down the trail with a stick in one hand and a rock in the other,” Burgess said. “Not too much further I actually ran into two hikers that were coming up the trail. I said, ‘Did you guys see a cougar?’ and they thought I was trying to play a joke on them. I pulled my video out and they were like, ‘Wow, that is insane!’ They continued up the trail because I think they were doing the loop I was doing, just in the opposite direction.”
Burgess had a hard time processing the encounter, showing it to his family when he returned home after the run.
His family then began to joke that he should post the video to social media. The video was recorded on Saturday night and Burgess posted it on Sunday morning.
“We know what happened from there, this thing just went viral,” Burgess said.
As of Tuesday night the YouTube video had over 1.6 million views.
He added that since the video went viral, he has been doing interviews with local, national and international media outlets almost nonstop. In fact, he had just finished an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper before speaking with the Daily Herald.
While working two jobs that total 80 hours a week, Burgess considers himself a workaholic, so he doesn’t see much sleep to begin. All of the media inquiries and interviews has not made it any easier for him.
He said he’ll have interviews until about 5 p.m. with more interviews coming from 7 or 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., when he heads to his job for UPS.
The later interviews are for media outlets in countries like Australia or England.
Burgess said he posted the video with the purpose of showing his friends and family his experience, but the last couple of days have been a blur for him. His family has been lending a hand, setting up interviews with media and helping him with the instant fame he has seen.
According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ website, Burgess did a lot of what is recommended when running into a cougar on a trail.
The website recommends not running from a cougar, making yourself look intimidating with firm words, keeping eye contact with the cougar and protecting the head and neck if attacked while fighting back.
You can find the full video of Burgess’s encounter on his YouTube page or his instagram account, @kunkyle.