What do I do if I run into a cougar in the wild?

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.

  • Do NOT run.

    A cougar kitten stalks one of its siblings on Millers Butte, outside of Jackson, WY
    © Tom Mangelsen

If you do, you’ll trigger the cat’s chase instinct and increase the likelihood of an attack.

  • Do NOT crouch down.

Don’t crouch down to pick up rocks, sticks or something to throw at the cat.  Crouching down puts you in a vulnerable position and increases the likelihood that the cat will pounce.

·         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 lion 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.