Stalked by a Cougar – What Would You Do?

Recently, I was reading through a Facebook post from one of my friends who is an avid mountain bike rider in Orange County, California. The details of the encounter were alarming, but the sharing of this information resulted in newfound knowledge for many people who often ride in this particular location. I realized, living in San Diego, a little farther south, that it was information that wasn’t only applicable to where the encounter occurred up in Orange County, but was relevant to many of us who frequent the outdoors. These places not only feel like our home away from home, but are likely to be within a home range of mountain lions. I decided that I would share that information with you in this article as I hope that it proves useful, and maybe even life-saving for someone in the near future.

My friend’s post read,

“MTB friends in the OC area! Please be aware that there is a Mountain Lion stalking the area in and around the Santiago Truck Trail. A good friend mine had a gnarly encounter with a cat early evening yesterday just over half mile up past the Luge. It was a pretty involved battle to get out of the situation safely. Please share with friends to keep our riding community in the know! Ride with a partner if you’re heading out early AM or late day! A definite reminder we are not always alone out there!”

“My buddy Eric rides there later quite a bit after work, and was heading up the climb past the Luge when he saw the lion crouched down in the bushes creeping on him. He got off his bike to flip around and bail out of there when it came out of the bushes and started backing him up hill on the trails. My buddy stood his bike up on the rear tire to try and get it to move, but he said it was not budging. Totally unafraid and straight eyeballing him. He started to chuck rocks, yelling etc and then it finally went into the bushes. So Eric took the open chance to start booking it down the trail, he looked back and the cat was chasing him, he lost control and ate it into the side of the trail. He had another face off doing all he could to get it to take off back into the bushes once again. So gnarly. He said he’s never been so afraid, thinking for sure it was not going to end very well. I told him he needs to report the incident to the forest service.”

Picture: CA DFW

Below is some useful information about what is recommended for you to do if you find yourself in a similar situation.

What you can do if you encounter a Mountain Lion from :

    • Make yourself appear as large as possible.

      Make yourself appear larger by picking up your children, leashing pets in, and standing close to other adults. Open your jacket. Raise your arms. Wave your raised arms slowly.

    • Make noise.

      Yell, shout, bang your walking stick against a tree. Make any loud sound that cannot be confused by the lion as the sound of prey. Speak slowly, firmly and loudly to disrupt and discourage predatory behavior.

    • Act like a predator yourself.

      Maintain eye contact. Never run past or from a mountain lion. Never bend over or crouch down. Aggressively wave your raised arms, throw stones or branches, all without turning away.

    • Slowly create distance.

      Assess the situation. Consider whether you may be between the lion and its kittens, or between the lion and its prey or cache. Back slowly to a spot that gives the mountain lion a path to get away, never turning away from the animal. Give a mountain lions the time and ability to move away.

  • Protect yourself.

    If attacked, fight back. Protect your neck and throat. People have utilized rocks, jackets, garden tools, tree branches, walking sticks, fanny packs and even bare hands to turn away cougars.

Here is some more information from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife


Excerpt from Outdoor Magazine
California Dept. of Fish & Game, May, 2012

“DFG does not consider mountain lion sightings near human habitation a public safety concern as long as the lion is not exhibiting aggressive behavior towards people. Mountain lions occur most anywhere you can find their primary prey, which is deer. As you likely know, deer not only live in remote forests, but also in green belts, parkways and riparian corridors along rivers. As such, mountain lion sightings in these areas are not uncommon, and DFG receives numerous reports of lions in these settings every month. Mountain lions are considered beneficial in these settings as they maintain healthy deer herds by keeping their populations in check.

DFG has scientific evidence that mountain lions inhabiting areas close to humans are no real cause for concern. We have either conducted or been associated with mountain lion studies that have monitored their movements in such areas. We typically capture mountain lions and place a radio collar on them in order to track their movements. The information gleaned from these collars has provided some illuminating results. They have indicated that mountain lions regularly use such areas more frequently than we have previously thought, and that these lions generally attempt to stay away from people.

For example, in Southern California, university researchers have placed collars on these big cats in a heavily used park. They also placed trail loggers and remotely triggered cameras along popular trails to estimate human use. Surprisingly, the results indicated that some lions were mere feet away from people who were unaware of the lion’s presence. During the course of this study, no reports of aggressive lion behaviors were ever reported to the researchers or park personnel.”

I know for a fact that a study “like this one mentioned above” was performed in a state park in San Diego County. Its a park I have ridden mountain bikes in with many friends on a multitude of occasions. Never once did we encounter a mountain lion, though I am sure we have been seen by one or more over the years.

I hope some of you find this information helpful. Stay safe out there!

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