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Mountain lions and other wild cats don’t have to be dangerous. If you encounter one in your neighborhood or in the wilderness, how you act determines if the encounter will be a positive or negative one. Take the steps now to learn how to interact with a wild cat!

How You Can Prevent An Attack

If you want to prevent a mountain lion (also known as cougar) attack or encounter, there are certain steps you can take to discourage them from visiting your house or property.

The first thing to know is that pumas, or mountain lions, are not inherently dangerous. Pumas do not attack humans without feeling threatened. They also only attack animals when they need to eat!

As we build homes in their territory, we force their prey to move or hang out in your neighborhood. Thus, we force wild cats to hunt differently in their territory - sometimes in our neighborhoods.

So the first thing we can do to prevent pumas from visiting is to discourage their prey.

How To React If You Encounter Or Are Attacked By A Wild Cat

How likely are you to be attacked by a mountain lion or wild cat?

Very, very, very unlikely.

You are...

  • 150 times more likely to be killed by the cougar's prey (the deer)
  • 300 times more likely to be killed by a domestic dog
  • 500 times more likely to drown in your own bathtub
  • 1000 times more likely to die from excessive heat or cold
  • 2500 times more likely to die from an accidental fall
  • 7000 times more likely to die in a vehicle crash
  • Did you know that even bees account for more human deaths each year than wild cats?

We understand that a wild cat is still an intimidating creature. They are a powerful apex predator! But they only attack to eat (unless very, very sick) and their natural prey are a variety of animals (like raccoons) and deer—not humans. Pumas are not inherently dangerous and usually only attack if they are provoked, so it’s important to know how to react if you see a puma to prevent an attack.

Cougar / Mountain Lion watching prey

If you see a cougar or other wild cat...

  • Stay calm and stand your ground. Stand tall to make yourself look big and intimidating. You can also put your hands above your head.
  • Don’t make any sudden movements, but keep eye contact with the cat. 
  • Don’t run. Wild cats are a predator and running could trigger their instincts, provoking them to chase you.
  • If you are with a child or pet, pick them up without bending over. Bending down or moving quickly could appear hostile and intimidate the cat so they feel like they need to protect themselves. You can also have the child or pet slowly move behind you.
  • If you are in your neighborhood, slowly back into your car or house.
  • If you are not near a building, slowly back away and allow the cat to pass by.
  • Lastly, recognize the beauty of what you are witnessing. A wild cat encounter is a rare, beautiful thing!

This would create an ideal encounter, but if the cat appears actively aggressive or looks like it might attack, make yourself look larger by waving your hands above your head. Make noise by clapping your hands and yelling, but keep your voice tone low and affirmative. You can also throw things at the wild cat, like backpacks, rocks, sticks, or anything near you. But do not charge the cat.

If you’re recreating in the wilderness, we recommend carrying a heavy walking stick. You can use it to defend yourself if the cat comes within striking distance. You could also carry pepper spray or mace to protect yourself if the animal appears like an active threat coming towards you.

In the extremely rare case that these actions do not scare the cat off and it does attack, do not lay down or play dead. Fight back. 

How do you know if a wild cat is about to attack?

Mountain lions are world-class stalkers, so if they’re going to attack you, you probably won’t see them. But, again, unprovoked attacks are extremely rare. If you do see a puma, you should follow the steps we listed to scare it off and avoid an attack. Signs of aggression include:

  • Moving towards you quickly.
  • Hissing or making noise.
  • Clapping their front paws at you.

How You Can Help Wild Cats

There is a lot of misinformation out there about wild cats. This misinformation causes fear and public unrest, which puts wild cats at risk. They are important apex predators that play a crucial role in biodiversity. When we lose wild cats, we lose biodiversity.

We can help save wild cats through educating our communities on ways to live alongside them safely! Education is the key, because it alleviates fear and encourages a healthy relationship. If we take the right steps, we can make a difference for wild cats.

Learn How To Educate & Help Your Community

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