Although you’ve never seen one on your favorite trails, if you’re a regular runner or hiker in the American West, there’s a high chance one is keeping an eye on you.
It has become increasingly common for hikers near rapidly growing cities like Denver, Salt Lake City, Bend in Oregon, and Reno in Nevada to come face to face with mountain lions, also known as cougars, panthers, and catamounts. There are an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 mountain lions in the American West. Cats can be found throughout much of North America, from Mexico to Canada, as well as in the Caribbean and the Middle East.
Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare, but it is possible that you will encounter one while hiking or camping, and knowing what to do if you see a mountain lion can go a long way toward preventing a remarkable encounter from becoming a mauling.
What Is A Mountain Lion Exactly?
There are several different names for the giant American cat species known as the mountain lion, including cougar, panther, and puma. The mountain lion is a huge, tawny cat that can grow up to 8 feet in length.
Except for the whitish-gray belly and chest, their bodies are mostly covered in tawny-beige fur. The tail tip, ears, and snout are all covered in black patterns. The average body size of a mountain lion varies greatly depending on where it lives, from the lowest near the equator to the largest in the poles.
As a general rule, males and females weigh between 115 and 220 pounds (52 and 100 kilograms) and 64 to 141 pounds (13 to 57 kilograms) (29 and 64 kilograms).
Are You Likely To Be Attacked By A Mountain Lion?
For the most part, mountain lion attacks against humans are extremely uncommon. To be killed by a beloved dog, drowning in your bathtub, or being struck by lightning are the three most likely scenarios. In the wild, lions would be constantly on the prowl for prey. Rather than that, they maintain a safe distance from us.
Bear that in mind while venturing out into cat territory. Lions are most active at night and dawn, so avoid wandering alone at these times. Stay near to your children and pets at all times. a mountain lion must never be approached or cornered (or any wild animal). Stop if you see a mountain lion. Resist the temptation to run. Keep your cool in the presence of a cat, unlike the advice given for dealing with bears.
Instead, maintain eye contact. Stand up straight. Open your coat or raise your arms to make yourself appear larger. Slowly, but forcefully, wave your arms around and speak. If necessary, try to hurt the lion with objects. Give the cat space and time to move on.
In the unlikely event that you are attacked, you should take action to defend yourself. Most individuals are able to scare away the mountain lion.
Mountain Lion Safety Tips: What To Do If You See One?
1. Be Attentive
If you’re going on a hike, trail run, or backpacking trip in an area where mountain lions are known to roam, you should keep your senses sharp by not listening to music with headphones or earbuds.
At dawn and dusk, when cats are most active, you should take extra precautions to avoid being attacked. The best time to go for a stroll or run is outside of these hours. Do not hike these trails alone, and do not bring your dog. In the event that you must bring a dog with you, don’t allow it to run loose in the woods. Keep an eye on tiny children and prevent them from wandering off the trail.
2. Step Back Cautiously
As soon as you spot a mountain lion or its cubs, you should begin to carefully back away from the animal. Never turn your back or even your head away from the lion. Maintain a calm demeanor and avoid making quick moves that can surprise the cat.
If you run away from a lion, the cat’s natural impulse may be to chase and attack you. Let the lion think that you are terrified of it (because you are!) and that it is in command of the situation. Mountain lions are known to accompany humans away from their cubs, food cache, and den when they sense an intruder.
3. Be As Tall & Intimidating As Possible
As you back up, make yourself as tall as possible so that the cat recognizes how much larger you are. To show off your height, raise your arms over your head and wave them from side to side.
Removing a jacket should be done gradually and with your hands over your head as high as feasible. Take care of your young ones so they don’t freak out or run away, and keep them close to you if you can. Make sure you don’t appear to be a four-legged creature to the cat so it doesn’t think you’re prey.
4. Raise The Maximum Amount Of Noise
Avoid moaning or wailing to avoid sounding like a helpless or wounded animal. Make as much noise as you can to keep the mountain lion preoccupied and wary. Speak or scream anything comes to mind.
If it helps you feel better, scream obscenities. Keeping the lion distracted, concerned, and on the defensive is easier with loud shouting and screams than with loud songs or slow, deliberate talks. It’s also a good idea to shake your water bottle or knock your trekking pole against the ground.
5. Maintain Eye Contact
If you see a mountain lion, don’t look away. Always maintain a bold, rebellious demeanor by looking directly at the animal and keeping it engaged and defensive. Because mountain lions can strike in a single second, turning your head can signal that you’re fleeing and increase your chances of being killed.
You’ll be able to get a better idea of the lion’s temperament and its next move if you keep an eye on it. A mountain lion turning its back on you and walking away is usually a sign that the threat is low. As you back away from it, keep an eye on it until it is entirely out of view and then retreat in the other direction.
6. Throw Anything & Everything
Rocks and tiny branches can be used to scare away mountain cats, but they also have the potential to enrage them. The situation is complex, but a physical encounter with an animal should be avoided at all costs.
Do not squat to pick up a pebble, as the cat may mistake this for an attack position, or you may appear prey. If you intend to startle the mountain lion, aim for the region directly in front of its feet while hurling anything at it. When the lion senses your fear, it may rush toward you and attack if you strike it in the face. It’s best to switch tactics and toss something directly at the mountain lion’s face if it charges you.
Despite the fact that mountain lion assaults are extremely rare, they do occur occasionally. Due to the fact that people are not the traditional prey of a mountain lion, these assaults on humans are generally invariably defensive.
No matter what, you must fight back with all your power and abilities even if the mountain lion has no intention of eating you like it would a rodent or a deer. You should do everything you can to protect your neck, throat, and eyes.
It’s possible to kick, hit, smack, swat, or stab it in the eye with a stick, or to seize it by the throat with your hands. Directly spray its face with your pepper spray canister if you can. If you flee or pretend to be dead during an attack, it will likely continue to attack you.
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Hey Guys I am Michael, I am a writer & editor at Outside Origin. I love being in the outdoors and I hike quite often. I have actually hiked at Inca Trail, Samaria Gorge, and Milford to name a few. I plan on visiting more locations and hiking trails!