Earlier this week, two hikers in California’s Sequoia National Park encountered a mountain lion while hiking.
Acting on instincts that humans have developed over hundreds of thousands of years to survive in a world filled with hungry big cats, the two men de-escalated the situation and got away unharmed, although the mountain lion forced them to change their route.
Of course, the time to ask “what should we do?” is before you start out, but who expects to meet a cougar (another name for Puma concolor) on the trail?
Cougars try to avoid us. There were only seventy-three reported sightings in the US and Canada between 1991 and 2003, and only ten fatalities. (Chester; Murphy and Macdonald)
Of course, one death is too many, so we need to figure out possible options before we need to act.
This in-depth article about the sighting has some good tips on what to do if you meet a cougar.
Also check out this video, “Never Turn Your Back on a Big Cat,” made by experts at Big Cat Rescue in Florida.
The amazing (and scary) thing about it is that the sight of vulnerable “prey” seems to trigger some cats who are far off and just hanging out.
Cats are hardwired to kill prey by biting through vertebrae at the back of the neck. Big cats can and do attack people that way, but only in the right circumstances.
Before your trip, study up on dangerous animals in the area and how to avoid trouble with them . . . and never act like prey or turn your back on a puma if you meet one.
Featured image Cougar in Zion State Park, by Oregon State University, Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0.
Chester, T. 2006. Mountain lion attacks on people in the U.S.A. and Canada. http://www.tchester.org/sgm/lists/lion_attacks.html#stats Accessed August 10, 2017.
Murphy, T., and Macdonald, D. W. 2010. Pumas and people: lessons in the landscape of tolerance from a widely distributed felid, in Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids, ed. Macdonald, D. W., and Loveridge, A. J., 431-451. Oxford: Oxford University Press.