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Mountain Lion Attack Questions & Tips

Even though the current mountain lion population estimate for California is only 4,000-6,000 adult cougars, encounters are on the rise. Below are tips for cougar encounters and other questions related to mountain lion sightings and concerns. These creatures are known by many names including cougar, puma, panther, catamount, and more.

What Precautions Can People Take to Avoid Mountain Lion (Cougar) Attacks?

The Department of Fish and Game recommends the following:

Don't hike alone
Travel in groups or pairs.

Keep kids close.
Adults should keep children close and supervise them on trails or in camp grounds. Predators will hunt weak, small, or sick animals. Children trigger predatory behavior through their activities and vocalizations.

Do not approach wild animals.
Most wild animals will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape and don't purposely approach them. Don't run to escape from a mountain lion.

Stand still.
Running can stimulate the instinct to attack. DFG recommends that you stand, face the animal, and make eye contact. Small children should be pulled into you, or picked up if possible. Keep them quiet and prevent panic.

Remain upright.
Squatting, crouching, or bending presents a similar image to that of a four-legged prey animal. Avoid those activities.

Appear more threatening.
Raise and wave your arms slowly. Throw stones, branches, or whatever is within reach without crouching or turning your back. Speak firmly in a loud voice. Convince the animal that you are not prey and be dangerous.

Fight back if attacked.
A mountain lion (cougar) usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have fought successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands.

Consider other preventative measures.
Carry pepper spray, stun gun, or another animal deterrent. You might read my article on captive animal attacks for additional ideas.

What is your opinion on the recent mountain lion attack in southern California?

It is difficult to speculate before all the information is in. Animals remain wild--a fact we forget during our encroachment into their territories. There are many factors that contribute to animal attacks.

Adverse influences on animals that may contribute to negative encounters include:

A draught.
The ongoing draught in California taxes wildlife and natural resources. Animals will come in closer to humans in a search for food and water.

The recent California fires damaged vital habitat and forced animals into new areas. This depleted resources and further stressed the natural world.

Habituation to humans through close contact and exposure.
Humans feeding wildlife, raising livestock adjacent to wildlife habitat, and related activities, create familiarity with humans and often increase encounters, this can contribute to problems.

Increased development and human populations immediately adjacent to wildlife habitat.
Shrinking habitat and human excursions into wildlife areas increases the chance of encounters or incidents.

Mental or physical illness or injury of an animal.

Animal influence.
Influences of the dam or another animal can mold/change normal animal behavior as well as competition or territorial disputes.

Human failure to understand animal behavior.

Human failure to adhere to wilderness safety rules.

Human failure to plan or take precautions in advance (mitigation) of any encounter or problem.

Cougar stats and attack history

Cougar Comments Page

Living with Lions Fact Sheet DFG

Predator Attack Tips from National Geographic 2001

May 3, 2004 Article: Chance of Mountain Lion Attack Rare

Griffith Park Gets Mountain Lion Warnings (LA Times) 4/28/04

Cougar in Griffith Park 4/29/04 (LA Times Follow Up Article)

KTLA Griffith Park Cougar Article 4/29/04

MSNBC Urban Cougar Study Article 4/06/04 (Defensive Cougar Picture)

UC Davis Mountain Lions In Your Community Project (with valuable files, links, and tips)


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