Survival Gear

How to avoid a Mountain Lion Attack

The likelihood of ever having an encounter with a mountain lion is pretty low, but in certain wilderness areas the possibility does exist so you should know what to do if you come across one in the wild. With the growing popularity of outdoor sports like mountain biking and hiking, wild animal encounters are on the rise. So what should you do if you encounter a Mountain Lion?

Mountain Lion

Be especially careful when hiking or camping with children in known mountain lion territory.

  • Always keep children and teenagers close by.
  • Mountain Lions are attracted to children, so don’t let them wonder too far away.
  • Mountain lions see children as a small prey animals, which can sometimes tempt them to attack.

Awareness is your most powerful weapon.

Situational awareness is your best defense from being attacked, and is the only way to ensure your safety in the wilderness.

  • Are the birds chirping? Are squirrels chattering? If you stop hearing animal noises you need to ask yourself why. What’s in the area that these animals see as a threat?
  • Be on the lookout for fresh cougar tracks or signs of scat. This is especially important anytime you see fresh tracks over areas that you’ve already walked on. This is a surefire sign that you’re being tracked and stalked.
  • Never squat or bend over while in mountain lion territory. Research shows that when a human bends over mountain lions can mistake them for a four-legged prey animal.

Making Noise can actually help.

If you’re walking in an area where there’s a probability of there being mountain lions in the area, the last thing you want to do is be completely silent. Some people mistakenly think that silence will protect them from these types of predators; it won’t. If you’re in an area with a Mountain Lion, chances are it already knows your there so silence isn’t really going to help.

  • Make noise when you’re hiking, this will help ensure that you don’t walk up on an unsuspecting lion.
  • If a Mountain Lion hears you approaching, more often than not it will slip away into the brush to avoid a confrontation.

If you come upon a lion, give it plenty of space so it can escape.

The chances of just happening upon a cougar are actually extremely low. These cats are ambush predators; you will very rarely see them until it’s too late. That being said, if you do come upon one, make sure you give it space and NEVER EVER RUN!

  • Running kicks in the cat’s natural hunting instincts.
  • If you run, you’re probably going to die. These cats see running as a sign that you are the prey; they will follow, and they will attack. Stand your ground, stand tall, and pick up any children that are with you.
  • If they do present themselves to you, they may be trying to size you up and see how you react. Stand strong, and make yourself look as big as possible. There’s still a pretty good chance the cat will leave without any kind of confrontation.

If you are attacked, FIGHT LIKE HELL!

Unlike bear attacks, experts say that you need to fight back when attacked by a Mountain Lion. Kick, Gouge its eyes, Hit it in the face, and do anything you can to make the lion rethink its attack.

  • Once a lion has decided to attack, they have already decided that the gain of a meal outweighs the risk of injury to themselves. You need to Fight Back, they intend to eat you.
  • NEVER GO DOWN! It may be the teeth and fore claws that scare you, but cougars most often kill by tackling prey to the ground and disemboweling them with very powerful hind legs/claws.
  • If you travel through these areas, a handgun is probably the best tool you can have at your disposal during an attack.
  • If you don’t have a weapon close at hand, find anything in the area that can be used as a weapon and use it to fight back.
  • Bear Pepper Spray is also useful against mountain lions. If you have some, it should be sprayed at the lion’s nose and eyes.

Additional tips and safety precautions when traveling in Mountain Lion Territory:

A Mountain Lion

  • Travel in groups, NEVER ALONE.
  • Consider taking a dog. While a dog is no match for a 150 to 250lb cat, it can buy you some time. There’s a pretty good chance the cat will probably go after the dog first.
  • When camping, Avoid being alone. Fetching wood/water should always be done in pairs. And yes, even bathroom breaks!

14 Comments on How to avoid a Mountain Lion Attack

  1. Good advice – I always make sure the kids are making plenty of noise (not hard to do) on our hikes, and keep them from getting too far out in front (much harder to do!). I also keep an eye out for sign.

  2. SeldomSeen

    First I urge every one to remember that you are in their world!

    • Mike

      That’s odd… their world appears to be our world whenever I see them or hear about them in the news.

  3. Nicole

    Thanks to all for the advice. I feel that I have left myself vulnerable to a cougar (actually two). I have been ill for about a year and was planning to work up at a camp (which I did for two weeks). There was a sighting of a cougar a few years ago but I thought it left or got shot. Well, apparently, it was still there. After a few days at camp, I was walking alone in the pitch black dark and I started having a feeling that the lion was still there, so I squared my shoulders and stopped walking with a limp (I injured my foot a few yrs. before). I had a long way to go so I just prayed to God that this wouldn’t be my last night.
    Finally I got to my room but still had the weird feeling of being watched…
    A couple days later I was walking behind our cabin to go to another cabin to do my laundry and I looked behind it where there are many trees and a creek. What a perfect place for a mountain lion! Later that night I was alone again and started walking across the bridge to get in my cabin. Then I heard light footsteps following me across the bridge. I didn’t know what it was but the creature was stalking me. Again I squared my shoulders and kept my normal pace. It surely was following me especially when I was two feet from the door… I opened the door and flew in!
    I had no idea what it was until I left and went home due to being too sick to work. So after I left…a deer was killed behind the cabins that I was staying in and in front of people!!! This mountain lion is definitely NOT scared of people especially when they were trying to scare it away from people and away from its meal…
    It didn’t click until later about what was probably stalking me and that’s when I started searching about what to do when encountering a mountain lion and I thank you all for your advice!!!! I’m thinking they should shot it. Forget about those lions being protected, when they lose their fear of humans, all bets are off!

  4. Nicole

    Sorry, I forgot to add that when I was on the bridge I heard its footsteps BELOW crossing the creek. It was following me. I just thank God nothing happened and that I left before it got another chance of studying me or even an encounter.
    Do you all think that if a mountain lion doesn’t mind people seeing it, it should be shot? It’s already been seen more than twelve times and shot at with rubber bullets. Even then it didn’t run away so fast.

  5. sharon

    great advice i live in the country so i have seen a mountain lion

  6. Christopher

    I don’t know if this has been said or not, but I bring pepper spray on hikes. If you come upon a mountain lion, do the above techniques, but you can also spray the the area between you and the lions. If there is an attack, spray the lion directly. This works for bears as well. Research the type of sprays to use as there are sprays specially made for use on animals. Hope this helps. Cheers.

  7. fortified

    I go trail running in Griffith Park… night. Their is one lion (p-22) that has been caught,tagged, and re-released there. The last report is that it looks very well fed. I see deer and other animals such as coyote’s, rabbits and others every single time I go. So although I am doing everything wrong….but at perhaps the least likely place. The only thing I have with me is my ski pole which I usually have pointing up and back away from my neck area, just in case. What are the odds the one well fed lion will want me? and oh yeah. The area is well traveled everyday by others during the day? Anyone?

  8. angelccorr

    I live in Mountain lion territory. We have several who come around. While sitting on my porch at dusk, I discovered that a lion was on the other side of our fence watching my grandson play on the porch next to me. I wasn’t sure at first what type of animal it was, so I walked to the steps of the porch to get a close look. The lion didn’t move away, but continued to crouch by the fence, even though I must have looked large due to standing at the top of the steps. I think the reason the lion did not come into the yard to attack my grandson was because of my close proximity to him. Of course, I scooped up my grandson and went into the house. Unfortunately, I forgot that my cat was out that night, and since I never saw him again, I figured he has been taken by the Mountain lion. Several of my neighbors have had their pets go missing, so now I always go outside with my dog to protest her. If I ever have to deal with a Mountain lion again, I plan to turn the hose on it, hoping it will scare it away.

  9. someoneyou dont know

    im only 12 years old and small for my age at that and i was wondering if anyone has advice on what a child like me should do if a mountain lion confronts me.i know i should never hike alone and stay with my parents and i will but anything can happen so advice would be awesome.

  10. Debbie Seat

    About 5 years ago, I was going for a jog and saw a mountain once about 50 yards away. It was standing completely still, staring at me intently. The only thing moving was his tale, slowly swinging back and forth. I didn’t know much about them at the time and was just lucky that I decided to use my instincts. I stared at it first, trying to decide if I wanted to just keep jogging or not. I was on the dirt road and the lion was off the dirt road a bit up a little higher on a rocky mound. I decided to raise my hands and start yelling at him. He just stared back at me so I continued for about a minute with no luck. He never moved from his position, just kept his stance, slowly moving his tale back and forth. So, at that time, I decided to turn around and slowly walk in the opposite direction. I walked for about three minutes until I found a long two by four and started back, dragging it behind me. It made a fair amount of noise, dragging on the rocky dirt road and when I eventually got back to the spot where I had seen it, the lion was gone. I just went on home with the two by four dragging , about a quarter mile down the road. I never saw it again but I also never went jogging in that area again. Only later on, after having researched mountain lions, did I realize what danger I may have been in and what I did to avoid the situation. Using my instincts, waving my arms up in the air, yelling, maintaing eye contact and not panicking was actually the correct course of action.

  11. jay

    I live in the Sierra foothills at the 2,000 foot level, lots of Oak, some manzanita, pine and hilly. We’re within a few miles of the big 400 square mile “Rim fire” of 2013, an have had more sightings of cougars since then. Lots of deer in our area, and homes are ¼-1 mile apart. Neighbors lost livestock to a young male cougar his year, which was trapped and removed by fish & game department. I run at night, with lots of light, and stay on the road. Have seen long low tan colored beasts in the brush at dusk, but never sure whether it’s just more deer, or mountain lions. They do hide their kill in piles of leaves, and whenever I run, and smell a dead dear near my trial I’m especially alert. I do cherish my night runs but continue to be watchful.

  12. Hollis

    I grew up in the mountains so in school we were taught what to do in case we encountered a mountain lion and the main thing was to act bigger and be bigger and scream and if your with friends put them on your back to grow a few feet. I also grew up hearing stories of people’s animals being killed by mountain lions and the lions walking through town. So they are not afraid of people but they most likely won’t attack if you act tougher and bigger.

  13. Tiffany

    I carry a fire arm with me when I hike or go camping and even horseback riding. I also like to wear a beanie with eyes on the back of my head. It make it less likely from being attacked from behind.

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