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How to Stay Safe From Mountain Lions While Hiking

Buzzle Staff
It is very rare to encounter a mountain lion in the wild, and those few people who spot one, are rarely the target of the animal’s aggression. But in the worst case scenario, would you know what to do? Let's find out the safety measures, through this story.

For your own safety...

...if you do see a mountain lion, no matter how thrilled you are to be one of the very few who gets such an opportunity, stay well back, and take the encounter seriously.
If you hike, backpack, or camp in the mountains, chances are, you are well-versed on how to avoid encounters with bears, and on what to do if you should encounter one. Most people learn about bear safety, because the idea of a bear attack is so terrifying, that we would rather be safe—that is, well-prepared—than sorry.
We may never encounter a bear in the wild, but it makes us feel safer to know that, if we do, we are ready. Unlike an encounter with a bear, wherein, you can get off playing dead, playing dead with a mountain lion can actually be disastrous.
Despite their high level of bear awareness, many mountain goers have little or no knowledge when it comes to mountain lions. Also called cougars or pumas, catamounts, or panthers, mountain lions are a large-cat species, native to South, Central, and North America.
When it comes to mountain dangers, mountain lion attacks are even more rare than bear attacks, but it could be argued that the potential of encountering a wild mountain lion is even scarier than the possibility of seeing a bear.

Psyche of the Mountain Lion

Mountain lions spend their day in dense cover, and hunt for deer at dawn and dusk, avoiding the midday sun. Even hikers, to avoid the scorching heat of the sun, prefer taking to the trail at the hours that the sun isn't at its peak. Being sensible enough is the key to avoiding an encounter with these mountain lions.
Mountain lions are well acquainted with the shape and movement of their natural prey. Which means that, you are at your vulnerable best when crouching and bending, rather than while walking like a normal individual.
In addition to that, bending and crouching makes your head and back an easy target for the mountain lion, which is why you should survey the area, and also make loud sounds, so as to scare off any animal in the vicinity.

Rare Encounters

Unlike bears, mountain lions move quietly, and are very good at concealing themselves. They are stealth hunters, so, if they choose to attack you, it is not likely that you will have much advance knowledge of the situation.
By contrast, if a bear attacks you, you’ll know about it, and you might even have time to get out your pepper spray, or take other defensive measures. Given these differences, it is hard to say why people are so often less prepared for mountain lion encounters, but the fact remains.

Back Away Slowly

So, how can you stay safe from an aggressive mountain lion during back country experiences? Luckily, some of the techniques are similar to those you would use during bear encounters.
For example, you should never try to run away or escape quickly, but instead, should try to back away as slowly as possible, putting distance between yourself and the mountain lion, without making any sudden movements. If a mountain lion views you as a predator, it will never turn its back on you, for fear of being attacked from behind.
Follow suit, face your predator, rather than turn your back on it to avoid being attacked. Look as intimidating as possible when confronted by a mountain lion, and back away really slowly, rather than making any swift movement that will attract even more attention of your predator.

Avoid Invasion

Bears will only attack if they feel they are immediately threatened, but mountain lions are more aggressive and territorial. If they feel their territory is being invaded, they may attack even if there is no immediate threat to their well-being.
Therefore, it is not possible to prevent a mountain lion attack by calming the animal down. Instead, stay away from a possible predator area. The tip is to steer clear of any carcass, as these are the areas where you might have an encounter with a mountain lion.
Acting dead too will be of no help to you, as that may attract the feline to you. Remember that the feline prefers to cache his/her prey for days on end, and hence, will linger around the body of a dead animal.

Counter Attack

Be brave, this is no time for you to be a coward. Be fierce and look at the animal in front of you. The key here is to cultivate fear in the eyes of your predator. The battle is half won if you hold your fierce stance. Create havoc and scare the animal off, by whistling, blowing trumpets, or simply screaming your lungs out.
You can even clap and bang on objects to create some noise. Wave your hand slowly above your head, open your jacket, and appear as large as you can. You can even try throwing a few stones towards the lion, if it continues to make an advance.
Be prepared to attack the animal if it moves towards you. Remember, the moment you allow fear to set in, you will be vulnerable.
If possible, do wear bright, colored clothing, avoiding anything that will resemble a prey. Also, avoid hiking alone, to avoid an encounter with a mountain lion. When in the mountains, awareness and preparedness are the two most important tools at your disposal. Last but not the least, be aware and not afraid, when in the wilderness.