Mountain lions are fast and powerful predators. They also have the largest habitat range of any animal in our hemisphere. These territorial felines can be found in swamps, forests, deserts, and mountains. Also commonly known as cougars, pumas, and panthers, mountain lions are mostly found in the western half on the United States, although they have been found east of the Mississippi River. Mountain lions are ambush predators, solitary creatures, and tend to avoid humans. Like most animals, mothers are extremely protective of their young.
Although I have never come across a live mountain lion, I have stumbled upon a young, deceased mountain lion that had fallen from a cliff. Being that I was hiking in a very solitary place (the Zion Narrows), I was very concerned I would run into a live one. If I had, I wouldn’t have known what to do. (not smart, for a hiker!)
Death by mountain lion attacks are rare: there have only been around 20 reported cases of people in North America killed since 1890, with most cases being reported in California and British Columbia. Children are especially vulnerable to attack; even more so when they are unaccompanied by an adult.
The most important thing to know when defending yourself from a mountain lion is to prove to the lion that you are not prey: don’t look small, weak, or quiet. Show the animal that you are dominant and strong. Remember that mountain lions are predators; they often attack when they feel trapped, when a person runs away, or when a person is still or plays dead.
So when hiking or camping in areas with mountain lions, please follow these tips to ensure your safety:
If you see a mountain lion or are a victim of an attack, it’s important to be sure to report the information to the park service, forest rangers, or the police. Informing authorities helps protect others in the area from experiencing the same peril.
Hike smart and hike safe.