How to handle mountain lion encounters in the wild


Mountain lion attacks on people have increased dramatically since 1986, with most of these attacks occurring in California, Colorado, and Canada. So if wherever you are doesn’t start with a “C” you can breathe easier.

Mountain lions, also known as cougars, catamounts, and panthers, have in recent years changed their habits due to reduced hunting in most states, development encroaching on their habitat, and plump suburban pets becoming fast food for mountain lions. You may not spot a mountain lion in the Allegheny or Catskill Mountains yet, but they are increasing their range and moving eastward.

Even so, RVers tend to be mobile, so you are likely to visit a mountain lion habitat in your travels. If so, follow these general rules. Mountain lions are rarely seen in the wild (80% of mountain lion sightings are actually something else). When hiking, hike in a group (most attacks have been to solo hikers, bicyclists, or runners).

If you sight a cougar and it does not run away, take aggressive action: 1) Make yourself appear as large and threatening as possible: If you are with a small child, put him/her on your shoulders. Hold your backpack over your head, raise your arms and wave. 2) Scream threateningly at the animal (most of its prey will run, so your actions will confuse it), throw rocks (don’t stay bent over too long to pick up rocks, as you will appear small and an easier target), 3) If attacked, fight back aggressively, 4) After you chase it away, write an article for and post it on your blog.

Reality:  You are 10 times more likely to be killed by a dog than a mountain lion, and 2,000 times more likely to be killed by a car. We all seem to be more terrified and afraid of something that we know little about – like mountain lions and bears – which could even deter us from hiking. If this were a rational decision, then we would long ago have avoided pet dogs, and we certainly wouldn’t ride in a motor vehicle.

Consider these facts:

• 100 human deaths occur in auto collisions annually with deer.

• 86 deaths from lightning strikes.

• 40 deaths from bee stings.

• 18-20 people killed by dogs (plus bites on 200,000 people).

• 12 deaths from rattlesnake bites.

• 3 deaths from black widow spider bites.

Basic Wildlife Observation Safety

Though not usually life-threatening, most wildlife in order to survive has discovered how to defend itself. No wildlife should be approached close enough that they change their behavior to concentrate on you. Just because wildlife allow you to approach closer in National Parks, where they have learned that they are safe from hunters, they are still wild. And no wildlife should be fed, cut off from escape routes, or separated from their babies. They can fight, stomp, claw, bite – which can lead to serious infections – stick you with needles (porcupine) or coat you with an obnoxious spray (skunk). Stay safe. Observe wildlife from a safe distance. And enjoy your hike.


One thought on “How to handle mountain lion encounters in the wild

  1. Pingback: RV Travel Newsletter Issue 850 - RV Travel

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