Being educated about cougar behavior is perhaps your best protection when recreating in the wild.
While statistics reinforce how unlikely cougar attacks are, we recognize that some people live or recreate in habitat where encounters may be more likely. Fears can be eased with a better understanding of these environments.
Learn more about Cougar Behavior and download our Cougar Facts & Safety Tips sheet. Following are some suggested tips for recreating in cougar country and people/groups to contact if an encounter is a serious public safety concern:
Guidelines for Recreating In Cougar Country
- Learn about the places and wildlife living where you hike, bike, ski, and climb. Be especially alert when recreating at dawn or dusk, which are peak times for cougar activity.
- Consider recreating with others. When in groups, you are less likely to surprise a lion. If alone, consider carrying bear spray or attaching a bell to yourself or your backpack. Tell a friend where you are going and when you plan to return. In general cougars are shy and will rarely approach noise or other human activities.
- Supervise children and pets. Keep them close to you. Teach children about cougars and how to recreate responsibly. Instruct them about how to behave in the event of an encounter.
- If you come into contact with a cougar that does not run away, stay calm, stand your ground and don’t back down! Back away slowly if possible and safe to do so. Pick up children, but DO NOT BEND DOWN, TURN YOUR BACK, OR RUN. Running triggers an innate predatory response in cougars which could lead to an attack.
- Raise your voice and speak firmly. Raise your arms to make yourself look larger, clap your hands, and throw something you might have in your hands, like a water bottle. Again, do not bend over to pick up a stone off the ground. This action may trigger a pounce response in a cougar.
- If in the very unusual event that a lion attacks you, fight back. People have successfully fought off lions with rocks and sticks. Try to remain standing and get up if you fall to the ground.
- If you believe an encounter to be a valid public safety concern, contact your state game agency and any local wildlife organizations.
Read “What do you do when you meet a predator“ by Christina Nealson, printed in High Country News March 26, 2013, about her chance encounter with a mother cougar and her kittens. Also check out “Be rational when mountain lions come calling“ by The Acorn’s editorial board, published on January 15, 2015.
As producers become more willing to utilize non-lethal deterrents to protect their livestock you may come across a livestock guardian dog when you are recreating on public land used for grazing. This is an excellent look at some of the behaviors that can help you have a positive experience in the presence of an LGD. Remember there are no guarantees of safety, just recommendations for practices that have worked well for other people.