Mountain Lion Incident: Eight Cougar Attack Safety Tips

Aggressive Mountain Lion

You may or may not have heard about the mountain lion incident over in Cedar Pines Park on January 3, 2007. The cat was after two large dogs in the back yard of a local resident. Unfortunately the animal was wounded—which will make it more dangerous. You can read more about this mountain lion incident at

Mountain lion issues are not something new around these parts and wildlife encounters are on the rise. It used to be that only older or sick animals attacked humans but some experts believe that the increase in mountain lion encounters are because younger lions are being moved out of territories by established males. I think that may be true and complicated by our excessive building and invasion into their habitat–which drives out prey and reduces the actual territory by our over development.

Just the other day, after one of my hikes with Shadow, I chatted about wildlife encounters and issues with Paul, who lives over on Rim of the World Drive. This discussion sort of piggy backed with my thought of pulling out my pistol because Shadow and I have been walking in isolated areas–and recently walking without another human escort. I know that after the fire damage the likelihood of wildlife encounters is on the increase.

Paul told me about a recent incident where a coyote was chattering at Amo, his big Labrador. Anyway, Waylon (a large German shepherd and Amo’s pal) showed up and the three of them advanced and flushed four more coyotes out of the brush.

The coyote clan likes to pick off pets, a problem that surfaces around these parts once in a while, but that is super common with urban coyotes. Both Waylon and Amo are large dogs and the presence of Paul did not intimidate the coyotes. Paul added that they treated Waylon for wildlife attack injuries about a month ago.

I always pay attention to my instincts which is why I have been thinking about packing a pistol again. Do you remember my ambles a couple of years ago? At that time, my sixth sense told me to change my walking habits.

Back then I quit walking before dawn and changed my patterns so that I ambled down the highway instead. A short time after I changed those habits, I noticed all the lower level predators moved out of the area and the smaller “lion snacks” down the street also became scarce.

Then both a mountain lion and bear began to be regularly sighted down around Cedar Dell & Brookside. There is a wildlife channel there that follows the creek bed and since no residents live up where the private property meets the national forest—it is a popular place for critters and once the street lights were turned off, I think the “cloaked by darkness” factor emboldened the critters.

Since then, the cat seems to show up around September and hangs around for a while. Mountain lions have fairly large territories and move through them in pretty predictable patterns. This cat was getting too comfortable around humans and was seen in daylight up by Camp Whittle and down here on the road at dawn, dusk, and during the late night hours.

The bear seemed to also move in and was a disagreeable neighbor and so had a few altercations with the cat—which made for some pretty darn scary excitement for the neighbors. Recently, the bear has been ambling around again…but I have not heard about the cat for over a month or so.

I have not seen any large animal tracks but I have seen a lot more bear poop scat in the area. Paul confirmed that he has seen a large bear has been hanging around Grout Creek and the roads near his house—even digging in the garbage.

But back to the mountain lion commentary, last I heard, the current mountain lion population estimate for California is 4,000-6,000 adult cougars. These creatures are known by many names including cougar, puma, panther, catamount, and more.

Mountain lions generally weigh in about an average of 100 pounds or so. Males can weigh from about 110 to 180 pounds, while the females are slightly smaller, weighing in from 80 to 130 pounds.

These cats are a tan color with striking black highlights above the eyes, mouth, and on the tip of the tail. The tail is long and measures about two-thirds the length of the head and body. I find it hard to believe that people confuse the mountain lion with the bobcat, a smaller cat of about 22 pounds, recognizable by its spotted coat, pointed ears, and short tail.

Known also as the American lion, the territory of cougars can range from 25 square miles in prey rich areas to up to 1000 square miles. What is amazing is their agility. From a standing position, estimates are that mountain lions can jump a vertical distance of up to 15 feet and horizontally to about 40 feet.

Mountain lions choose deer as prey most often, but they also feed on wild hogs, raccoons, rabbits and hares, porcupine, birds—and pets. Although verified mountain lion attacks are rare in the scheme of things, residents and visitors should take precautions.

Here are eight mountain lion attack safety tips:

1. Don’t hike alone. Travel in groups or pairs.

2. Keep kids close. Adults should keep children close and supervise them on trails or in camp grounds. Predators will hunt weak, small, or sick animals. Children trigger predatory behavior through their activities and vocalizations. Small children should be pulled into you, or picked up if possible. Keep them quiet and prevent panic.

3. Do not approach wild animals. Most wild animals will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape and don’t purposely approach them.

4. Don’t run to escape from a mountain lion. Stand still. Running can stimulate the instinct to attack. Department of Fish & Game recommends that you stand, face the animal, and make eye contact.

5. Remain upright. Squatting, crouching, or bending presents a similar image to that of a four-legged prey animal. Avoid those activities.

6. Appear more threatening. Raise and wave your arms slowly. Throw stones, branches, or whatever is within reach without crouching or turning your back. Speak firmly in a loud voice. Convince the animal that you are not prey and be dangerous.

7. Fight back if attacked. A mountain lion (cougar) usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal. People have fought successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands.

8. Consider other preventative measures. Carry pepper spray, stun gun, or another animal deterrent. You might read my article on captive animal attacks for additional ideas.

What else can you do?
Avoid walking in the early morning, dusk, or after dark to cut down the risk. Animals can attack at any time, but verified attacks on humans is rare and by using common sense you can reduce your risk.

What you might find interesting is that the last couple of attacks in Northern California were thwarted by female humans…so maybe you should plan on having a woman with PMS as a hiking partner…

If you live in a mountain area or plan to vacation in the mountains you might want to order one or more of the following books:

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This entry was posted on Saturday, January 5th, 2008 and is filed under Activities, Mountain Lake Resort, Mountain Wildlife, Small Town Living.

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8 Responses to “Mountain Lion Incident: Eight Cougar Attack Safety Tips

  • 1
    Snoop sister Deb
    January 5th, 2008 17:12

    Excellent article!!

  • 2
    Sol Lederman
    January 5th, 2008 18:09

    Very thorough and helpful information. Thank you.

    I live in New Mexico where there’s lots of wildlife and lots of hiking trails. Your ideas will make for safer hikes for myself and friends.

  • 3
    Binary Blonde
    January 5th, 2008 20:18

    Yikes. That’s got to be the scariest thing about hiking, I think. Most anything else you can survive, but a pissed off (and possibly hungry) large wild cat? Too scary.

    You left some great tips – I always, always, always have a hiking partner nowadays! It’s entirely stupid not to.

  • 4
    January 6th, 2008 04:08

    I live in Ontario, Canada and walk in our bush regularly. We have bears and moose around here, maybe some linx but I have never seen one.

    I find that I also seem to have an internal sense of when not to go out.

    My dog dug up some ground wasps last summer and they chased all the way home. So far that has been the extent of my adventures but my husband got chased out by a mother bear after the dog treed her cubs (and then ran faster than my husband)

    My MIL gave me a whistle which could be a good idea. I hope I never have to try it!

    I totally agree about the PMS, some days, I’d probably put them on the run :0)

  • 5
    Karen (Karooch from Scraps of Mind)
    January 7th, 2008 02:58

    Great article Diana. The worst I have to contend with is not hitting a Kangaroo when I go to visit my sister. And let me tell you, in a contest between a car and a kanga, the car usually comes off second best.

  • 6
    Travel Betty
    January 7th, 2008 20:07

    Thanks for the tips. We have periodic issues here in the Bay Area. I don’t know if I could stand and face a mountain lion, but you never know what your body will do in that situation. Good to have the advice.

  • 7
    Ark Animal Answers » Blog Archive » Urban Cougars & Bears: More Incidents
    August 7th, 2008 08:30

    […] Now some of you know that I live in an area where we have a part-time urban cougar. Usually the mountain lion moves in closer in September–read my mountain lion musings and eight cougar safety tips here. […]

  • 8
    Simply News | Fawnskin Flyer Mountain Lake Resort News
    May 5th, 2010 08:32

    […] Concerns Here in Fawnskin, mountain lion sightings are more common in the fall and I’ve share cougar safety tips here before but there have been mountain lion sightings in the Big Bear Valley over the last […]