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What to Do If You Encounter a Mountain Lion
The mountain lion population is growing. So too, it would seem, are mountain lion attacks on humans. There’s no need to abandon that hiking trip that you had planned, though. Although encounters with mountain lions always make the news, cougar attacks are rare. There have been less than 130 documented cougar attacks in the last 100 years. Less than 30 of those were fatal.
The mountain lion, or cougar, has a fearsome reputation. It’s one of the scariest wild animals in North America. With its razor-sharp claws and deadly fangs, a cougar is not something that you want to encounter in the wild. So, what would you do if a mountain lion approached you and your family? Here’s everything you need to know to prepare yourself for a mountain lion encounter.
How Much of a Threat are Mountain Lions?
The truth is that mountain lions are as wary of us as we are of them. That’s especially true of the mature cougars who have learned to give humans a wide berth. Like all wild animals, though, mountain lions can be unpredictable. Especially if there are young kittens nearby.
It’s important to remember that cougars are powerful predators. They attack usually their prey from behind and kill it with a bite to the neck. A mountain lion’s usual prey is deer. If they are hungry enough, though, they may try their luck with a human.
How to Hike Safely in Mountain Lion Country
The best way to stay safe when hiking in cougar country is to do all you possibly can to avoid a meeting mountain lion. That’s the same advice that you get in respect to bears. You must stay alert to the danger of mountain lions, and you must treat them with respect. If you see a cougar, even from a distance, you should be careful. Here are the steps to take to avoid a mountain lion encounter:
- Hike in a group.
- Keep children close to you and in the middle of the group.
- Stay on established trails.
- Make a noise – wear a bell, talk loudly.
- Only hike in daylight.
- Don’t take your dog with you – dogs attract mountain lions.
- Don’t approach cougar kittens – the mother will be nearby.
- Keep a clean campsite – don’t leave any food out.
- Avoid animal carcasses – mountain lions stash food and come back later.
What to Do If You Encounter a Mountain Lion
Your best defense against a cougar is to scare it away. You must make the mountain lion more afraid of you than you are of it. You should never turn your back on a mountain lion and run away. If you do, the cougar’s natural hunting instincts will kick in and it will chase and attack you. Here’s what you should do if you encounter a cougar in the wild:
- Stand your ground – do not run away
- Stand up tall – hold your hands in the air to make yourself look taller.
- Open out your jacket to make yourself look larger.
- Make a lot of noise. Shout or use an air horn if you have one.
- Do not approach the mountain lion
- Do not crouch down or bend over – it will make you look more like prey.
- Never turn your back on a mountain lion – they attack their prey from behind.
- Talk loudly and firmly – make yourself look and sound intimidating.
- Stay calm and back slowly away.
- If all else fails, throw rocks or branches at the cougar to scare it away.
What to Do If a Mountain Lion Attacks You
The above steps will usually frighten a mountain lion away. If you can convince the animal that you are not prey, it will back off. If a mountain lion does attack you, here’s what you should do:
- Grab something to fight back with – a rock or a tree branch.
- Try to stay on your feet – a mountain lion will try to go for your neck.
- Hit the cougar in the head and eyes.
- Keep on fighting – convince that mountain lion that killing you will take too much effort.
- Use a bear spray if you have one.
- Never play dead – that won’t work with a mountain lion.
Mountain lion attacks are very rare. Even so, it pays to be cautious if you are hiking in mountain lion country. The best advice for hikers is to stay alert and steer clear of cougars if you do see them. Make a lot of noise and hike in a group, then your chances of even seeing a cougar will be slim.
We hope that you found this post interesting. If you did, please do share it on your social media accounts. If you enjoy hiking in the backcountry, you may also be interested in this post about what to do if you encounter a bear.
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