If You Ever Come Across A Mountain Lion, Here's What To Do

Mountain lions, sometimes called cougars or pumas, are a type of big cat that is based in the United States and live pretty much anywhere where there are deer — their main prey. While mountain lions are quite frightening, it is important to know that mountain lion attacks are extremely rare and, according to the Mountain Lion Foundation, you are actually more likely to get struck by lightning than to be attacked by one of these solitary cats. However, due to the increase in the population of mountain lions and humans spending more time outside, mountain lion encounters have been going up in recent years. So, what should you do if you ever encounter a mountain lion in the wild?

Most mountain lion sightings happen from a distance. The first thing you should do if you see a mountain lion in the distance, or if you recognize the warning signs that one is nearby, is to leave the area the way you came. It is important to stay calm and remember that most mountain lions avoid people and don't want to be near you any more than you want to be near them. As you leave the area, make sure to warn others of the lion's presence and also notify any park staff of the sighting.

What to do during a close encounter

While mountain lions usually avoid humans and can hear us coming long before we arrive, in rare situations it is possible to accidentally stumble upon a mountain lion up close. If this happens, the National Park Service recommends backing away slowly. You should never run from a mountain lion because it may trigger the big cat's prey instinct and cause it to chase you. You should also stand up tall and never crouch down or bend over. This is important because mountain lions don't recognize humans as prey. However, if you are crouched down, you may appear more similar to a deer or other prey animal.

The U.S. Forest Service also recommends making yourself appear as big as possible. You can do this by raising your arms and opening your jacket. You can also speak loudly and make noise. It is important to always give the mountain lion a way to escape and to never approach or corner the animal. If you encounter a mountain lion while with a small child, you should try and pick up the child and put them on your shoulders without bending over or turning your back. If you cannot do this, grab their hand and keep them close as you back away. 

What to do if a mountain lion is aggressive

If a mountain lion approaches you or acts aggressively in any way you should be prepared to defend yourself. The National Park Service recommends doing "all you can to appear intimidating." This may include shouting, making yourself appear larger than you are, and throwing stones or branches at the lion. However, when reaching for stones and other things to throw, it is important not to crouch down as this may cause the lion to pounce.

If a mountain lion attacks you, you should use whatever you can to fight back. One man in Colorado survived after a mountain lion pounced on him and latched onto his hand by wrestling with the juvenile male cat, hitting it with a rock, and eventually suffocating it, per The Washington Post.

Another man in Utah was able to survive a face-to-face encounter with a female mountain lion and her cubs by backing away while shouting. The encounter lasted six minutes but he was eventually able to throw a rock at the lion, hitting her and causing her to run off. He got out of the experience without a scratch (via Deseret News). According to the National Park Service, the best thing you can do to get a lion to back off is to make it believe that you are dangerous and can harm it.