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Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?

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Mountain lions can be dangerous to humans and pets, however, attacks are rare and there are ways of avoiding encounters with these big cats. While mountain lions are not typically considered a threat to humans, they can be dangerous. If you encounter a mountain lion, you can avoid an attack if you know what to do.

This article will discuss why mountain lions can be dangerous, how to avoid a fatal encounter with one, and precautions to take when in mountain lion territory.

Keep reading to learn more!

Key Takeaways

  • Mountain lions rarely attack humans, but attacks do occur from time to time. When food sources are scarce, humans can be easy prey.
  • Avoid mountain lions by observing some safety precautions like not hiking alone, staying on trail, and being aware that you’re in mountain lion territory.
  • If you ever encounter a mountain lion, you can scare it off by making a lot of noise and making yourself look like a bigger, scarier predator. Most encounters never result in an attack, but if it does, you should be prepared.

Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?

While attacks on humans are rare, mountain lions are dangerous predators, nonetheless. There are precautions you can take to avoid an encounter with a mountain lion.

Would A Mountain Lion Attack Humans?

Mountain lion showing its fangs
Mountain lion showing its fangs | Image by Mike Hansen from Pixabay

Mountain lions are apex predators, meaning they are at the top of the food chain. They typically avoid humans and prefer to hunt animals such as deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. However, there have been attacks on humans by mountain lions.

There have been 126 attacks with 27 fatalities in the last century in North America. More people die from lightning strikes each year than cougar attacks.

While most of these attacks have been non-fatal, they have still resulted in serious injuries. People often get severe lacerations and puncture wounds that require emergency care and hospitalization.

Mountain lions are also a potential danger to pets. They have been known to attack and kill domestic animals.

For the most part, mountain lions try to avoid people. They have a broad range of territory to roam, so they have plenty of space to retreat if you give them their space.

If you live in or near an area with a high population of mountain lions, it is important to be aware of the dangers they pose and take steps to protect yourself and your property.

What Makes A Mountain Lion Attack?

Mountain lion fierce
Mountain lion fierce | image by Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area via Flickr

Mountain lions are predators and, like all predators, they will attack prey when they are hungry. They will also defend themselves, their cubs, and their territory if they feel threatened.

If food sources are scarce and a mountain lion is having a hard time finding prey, they may stalk and attack a human as a last resort. Starving predators are more dangerous to humans than any other predator.

Mountain lions are very similar to cats in their stalking and pouncing on prey. If one has been stalking a human, any quick movements, like an attempt to run, can trigger their predatory instincts to attack.

Attacks on humans are rare but they often happen because people are not respecting the mountain lion’s space, and it’s usually a female with cubs nearby.

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How To Avoid Mountain Lions

Mountain lion resting
Mountain lion resting | image by Chiara Coetzee via Flickr

The main way to avoid mountain lions is to simply not enter mountain lion territory, however they are so abundant in the national and state parks, it’s hard to avoid cougar country all together.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid mountain lions:

  • Never hike alone. Mountain lions avoid humans and they especially stay away from groups of humans. Keep your pets on a leash and close by.
  • Give them space. If you see a mountain lion in the distance, stay away and give it space.
  • Always stay on the designated paths and trails. Do not go exploring off-trail in cougar territory.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for paw tracks, trees with claw marks, large cat excrement, or the smell of urine markings.
  • Do not feed wild animals. Feeding animals like deer can attract predators to easy prey targets. Also keep food stored where predators can’t smell it.
  • Avoid hiking when it’s dark. Mountain lions have excellent night vision, so it’s best not to tempt them after dark.

What To Do If You Encounter A Mountain Lion

Mountain lion on top
Mountain lion on top

If you’re ever face to face with a mountain lion in the wild, it can be a scary experience. There are some things you can do to survive an encounter with a mountain lion.

1. Don’t run or make any sudden movements

You don’t want it to think you’re prey and you want to avoid triggering their predator instincts of attacking you.

2. Make noise

Be loud. If you’re camping, bang things together, like pots and pans. You really want to make as much of a ruckus as you can. Clap your hands and yell if you’re on a trail.

3. Make yourself bigger than you are

Make yourself bigger than you are by standing upright and waving your hands over your head slowly. Spread your arms out and move to higher ground if you can.

4. Never turn your back on the animal

Walk backwards slowly, while remaining calm. You should be making yourself out to look like the bigger predator, so continue making loud, aggressive noises.

5. Don’t make yourself smaller

Never lie down or bend over to make yourself smaller, and do not just freeze in place. The mountain lion sees you as weak prey and this could trigger an attack.

6. Block it with an object

If the mountain lion continues to advance towards you, and tries to attack, use something to put between you and the cat, like a backpack or camping gear. This is the time to use bear spray if you have it.

7. Use a weapon if you are attacked

If you don’t have bear spray, shove what you can in the face of the animal and fight back. Use whatever you can as a weapon to defend yourself.

Final thoughts

Mountain lions are dangerous animals and should be avoided. If you encounter a mountain lion, do not approach it. You should try to scare it away by making loud noises and making yourself look bigger.

If a mountain lion attacks, fight back with everything you have and try to escape. Remember, mountain lions are wild animals and should be treated as such.

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