Since 1986, mountain lion attacks on humans have gone up fairly drastically. In California, there were only two reported attacks that ended in fatalities, one in 1890 and another in 1909. Then there were no further attacks documented until 1986, 77 years later. Then, from 1986 to 1995 there were ten reported fatal attacks averaging one death by mountain lion per year, and this average has remained steady in the years since.
Since 1970 there has been an average of 14 cougar attacks that may or may not have ended in fatality per year on people in the entire U.S.
This seems like a relatively small number, but it doesn’t offer much comfort if you happen to be one of those 14 people attacked by mountain lions.
What makes mountain lions so scary is, unlike bears who usually are just after your food garbage, being a cat, the cougar will deliberately stalk its victim. Think about your house cat, what it chases, and why. If a mountain lion decides you are a feasible meal, it will follow you until the opportune moment to pounce on you.
These cats usually won’t mess with humans who are traveling in a group of two or more, so to avoid mountain lions, don’t travel alone, and follow the same camp hygiene practices you would for bears to prevent them from sniffing you out.
As with most wild animal encounters, you should follow the “defense drill” as it were in stages. In the case of a mountain lion, stage one of the drill is similar to when you encounter a bear.
First, stop everything you’re doing and stand up tall. DO NOT RUN. Again, think about your house cat. If you’ve ever seen your cat when it’s tracking a mouse, you may notice how a smart mouse doesn’t run, it freezes and stands perfectly still. Cats are programmed to follow movement, and if a prospective meal holds still long enough, chances are the cat will forget about it and move on. Remember, as far as a cougar is concerned, you are nothing but a big mouse. Running will only attract their attention.
Try to appear larger than the mountain lion and NEVER take your eyes off the creature or turn your back on it. Do not crouch down or try to hide. I repeat, don’t move.
Should the animal start to show aggression, move on to stage two of your defense. This is where it gets a little different from a bear defense. Shout, yell and make a lot of noise, wave your arms in the air and throw rocks.
If you see the big cat pin its ears back, that means it’s coming.
When a mountain lion charges you, you’re going to have to fight. Playing dead won’t help you here. Stay on your feet. If you go down, you’re toast.
Fight for your life aggressively with any weapons you got, a knife, club, backpack, rocks, anything. The cat’s eyes are the most vulnerable part, so aim for these and try to gouge your fingers into them.
Life is tough for mountain lions and they’re always actively searching for and stalking their next meal. Should you happen upon one and cannot protect yourself, they will take advantage. They’re solitary and sneaky by nature, and they will stalk you until the golden opportunity presents itself to take you down. Stay realistic, alert and aware, and you can avoid becoming lunch.
Together We Are Strong,
P.S. If you find yourself face to face with a mountain lion, you will fare far better during an attack if you have a weapon on you, preferably one you can stab into the big kitty’s eyes.
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