Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Mountain lion safety tips: How to handle a mountain lion encounter

By Cheri Sicard
As more and more civilization encroaches on wilderness, wildlife encounters are becoming more frequent. In the video below, Dixie from Homemade Wanderlust, a YouTube channel specializing in hiking and backpacking, is here to share her best mountain lion safety tips.

Dixie says that people talk a lot about bear safety, but not so much about mountain lions. She suddenly realized this when she found herself face-to-face with a mountain lion on one of her hikes. Thankfully, that encounter ended well, but it prompted her to create the video to help others who might find themselves in similar circumstances.

The video is not meant to scare you. Dixie stresses that encountering a mountain lion on a trail happens only rarely. However, the time to learn what to do about it is before you are faced with this stressful situation.

Safety statistics

Dixie starts the presentation with some interesting mountain lion facts and statistics:

  • Dixie says it is kind of strange that we don’t encounter mountain lions more often as, second only to humans, mountain lions have the largest geographical range in the Western hemisphere.
  • Mountain lions can be found in every state west of the Mississippi and a few states east of it as well.
  • Fatal mountain lion attacks in the U.S. have been recorded since 1890. Still, they are rare. For instance, in the entire state of California, there have only been eight mountain lion fatalities since that recorded history began. Most states have never had any, a few others have had one or two. All in all, since 1890 there have only been 17 mountain lion fatalities in the United States!
  • Seven of the 17 U.S. mountain lion fatalities were children, and most of the adults were either running or biking. Children look more like prey to a mountain lion and fast motion can trigger an instinct to pursue.

How to avoid a mountain lion encounter

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Mountain lions are stealthy and it would be easy to be stalked by one without even knowing it. Therefore, always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings in mountain lion territory. Take time to look around and stop every now and again and give a listen.
  • Hike in groups. As Dixie succinctly puts it, the more you hike in groups, the less you look like lunch. Groups also make more noise, which most likely will cause the mountain lion to go in the other direction.
  • Keep your dogs and children close when in mountain lion territory as both can look like their next meal to a mountain lion. Having a dog leading the hike can attract a mountain lion that might otherwise have left you alone. Children, especially smaller ones, can fall into the same potential prey category.
  • Be especially alert at dawn and dusk, times when mountain lions are generally more active.
  • As much as possible, avoid crouching and bending, or at least do a quick visual check of the surroundings before you do.

What to do if you encounter a mountain lion

  • Try to stay calm, difficult as that may be.
  • DON’T RUN! Running will trigger the mountain lion’s instinct to pursue.
  • Don’t approach the mountain lion. Stand firm and stand your ground.
  • Maintain direct eye contact. This is a big no-no with bears, but interestingly enough, it is recommended with mountain lions.
  • Raise your voice and speak firmly.
  • If you have children with you, pick them up (but don’t crouch down to do it).
  • Get big! If after doing all of the above the mountain lion has still not retreated, make yourself appear as large as possible, raise and outstretch your arms, raise your hiking poles in the air, open your coat, or anything else you can do to make yourself appear as large as possible.
  • If things continue to escalate, clap your hands or perhaps throw a rock or stick at the mountain lion.

What to do if you are attacked by a mountain lion

If none of these tactics have worked and a mountain lion is attacking you, Dixie says you literally need to fight for your life. It is not like a bear encounter where playing dead can make the animal back off. If a mountain lion attacks, he is trying to kill you.

  • Protect your head and neck.
  • Use whatever weapons you have on hand: rocks, sticks, knives, etc. Aim for the face and throat.
  • It may seem impossible to think that you could fight off a mountain lion, but if you are being attacked, that is your only option. Know that it can be done and has been done in the past.

Not only practical, but the video below is also fascinating. Dixie ends with a personal evaluation of her own mountain lion encounter, what she did right and what she could have improved upon to increase her chance of safety (even though that encounter did end without incident).



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3 months ago

I like the part that says not to bend over or crouch but then it says you throw rocks or sticks lol. Good luck finding those rocks and sticks floating at arms reach lol.

As someone who’s had a mountain lion stalk them up a hillside I can tell you that you aren’t going to hear them coming, you aren’t going to see them before they see you and you’re not going to stop them from doing anything they don’t want to do by trying to look bigger than you are. Instead of wasting time on that stuff, start planning on how you’re going to survive if it decides to attack.

Make sure you are always armed and you know how to use that gun when in nature. Keep a big knife on you as well. The cat may very well just eyeball you and go away but if it attacks at least you can protect yourself. They are big, insanely strong, unbelievably fast and have four really big murder mittens for hands and feet. Don’t buy into the Disney/snowflake feel good nature nonsense because it’ll get you killed.

3 months ago

Nothing works like serious deterrent….when backpacking, especially deep trails, I always have an accessible 2″ .38 tucked away. It has never been used for anything more than a comforting trail factor but….comfort is wonderful. Its much safer than a harmonica.

Diane McGovern
3 months ago
Reply to  Donn

Hi, Donn. That reminds me of years ago when I got a .357 Magnum S&W to wear when I go to my 18 acres of remote mountain property, that the mountain lions, black bears, etc., graciously share with me. I showed it to my elderly mom and she nervously asked, “You’re not going to put bullets in it, are you?” Uh, no, Mom. I’ll just tell whatever is coming at me to have a seat while I load my gun.😅 I also carry bear spray, as well as having two 6’8″ well-armed sons along (usually). (One’s a Marine combat veteran, and one’s a Seattle Seafair Pirate on hiatus, for whatever that’s worth.😂) But no aggressive wildlife encounters yet, luckily. Have a good night. 😀 –Diane aka Mountain Mama at RVtravel.com

3 months ago

I saw a young mountain lion fifty feet off the trail on an early morning hike in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona. It was laying down facing away from the trail. When it heard me, it turned around to face me.

It didn’t act aggressive and seemed to be embarrassed that I had gotten so close without being noticed.

After taking some pictures, I walked on past but kept watching my back for awhile.

Eduardo Wiewall
3 months ago

Great article, encounter with wild animals and poisonous or problematic fauna should be a regular article in the newsletter.

Cheri Sicard
3 months ago

Problematic fauna. Excellent suggestion Eduardo. I will do some posts on that. Thank you.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago

We were out ATV’ing in Nevada (our home) with some friends. My wife and I, and two other guys. We stopped for a lunch break. We were going through New York Canyon which had reportedly been washed out and impassable. While everyone is sitting around eating lunch I took off to see how far up the canyon the washout was. When I got to the washout, I could see a “guzzler” up ahead. I wanted to see how this guzzler was built so I started to walk up to it. As I looked around one of the corners (about 30-40 feet ahead) I spotted the butt end of a mountain lion laying behind the guzzler, probably hoping for a meal to come in and drink. I started to back away, then moved back to get a picture so the others would believe me. Scared the %$@& out of me!

Cheri Sicard
3 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Wow. That would scare the $%&# out of me too.

Larry Lee
3 months ago

My nieces taught me to include looking up into trees with branches overhanging the trail. They ran ahead of us, climbed the tree, got out on a branch about 15 feet up and we would have been a tasty meal if they had been mountain lions! Until they roared together at us, we never saw them.

Cheri Sicard
3 months ago
Reply to  Larry Lee

Good advice!

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