How To Survive an Encounter With a Mountain Lion

If you like to camp in the great outdoors, go hiking in the mountains, or if you live in a cabin in the woods, you should know how to react when encountering a mountain lion (cougar) - the right moves may just save your life. By knowing in advance how to survive such an encounter, you won't panic when a cougar crosses your path. Be sure to educate children in particular on the important steps to take should such an encounter take place so that everybody walks away alive and unharmed.

Encounters with mountain lions are happening more frequently even in well-travelled parks and developed areas not considered part of the wilderness, because urban development is threatening the mountain lion's natural habitat. Curious cats in search of food or water are wandering closer and closer to places that humans frequent.

Take a proactive stance by initially reducing your likelihood of encountering or antagonizing a mountain lion in the wild. This means always hiking with a buddy or two rather than going solo, and being noisy or talkative within reason when you hike to avoid surprising a lion. Avoid hiking at dusk and dawn when mountain lions are most active.

Select a campsite in a flat clearing that is not close to overhangs and places where mountain lions like to hide. Keep children close and insist they never wander off alone, even for bathroom breaks. Lions consider stray children the perfect prey. Teach everyone in the family what a mountain lion paw print looks like so if you see one on the trail, you can at least be aware that there are lions in the area.  If you come across fresh kill, buried or not, don't touch or disturb it as the lion is likely to be coming back to retrieve it.

In the event you cannot avoid a mountain lion encounter, it is essential to fight your immediate response to flee. Do not run! Running will provoke the lion into chasing you as prey. If you are sitting or crouching when you encounter the lion, stand up to your full height and put your hands over your head to look as large and looming as possible. Children can be held in your arms, placed atop your shoulders or encouraged to crowd around you in a standing position.

If a lion crouches and looks ready to pounce, it's time to get loud.  Yell, scream, growl, bear your teeth and wave your arms to look and act as threatening as possible without moving toward the lion. If he has grabbed a child, use anything handy, including walking sticks or tree branches to hit him around the face; strong blows to the nose and around the eyes often get mountain lions to release their prey. Leave the area immediately after an attack to seek medical help and worry about gathering up lost belongings later.


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