What to Do If You See a Mountain Lion

If you see a mountain lion, do not run away and maintain eye contact while slowly backing away. Encountering a mountain lion can be a frightening experience.

These elusive creatures are known for their agility and strength, and it is essential to know how to respond if you come across one. We will discuss what to do if you see a mountain lion in the wild. By following the proper steps, you can help ensure your safety and minimize the risk of an attack.

Remember to remain calm, maintain eye contact, and slowly back away without turning your back to the mountain lion. In addition, we will provide some valuable insights on how to prevent encounters and how to react in case of an attack. So, let’s delve into this informative guide on dealing with mountain lion encounters.

Understanding Mountain Lions

A mountain lion, also known as a cougar or puma, is a large wild cat native to the Americas. They are solitary animals with a wide range of habitats, from mountains to deserts. To ensure your safety when encountering a mountain lion, it is important to develop an understanding of their identification, behavior, habitat, and range.

Identification And Behavior

When it comes to identifying a mountain lion, there are several key features to look out for:

  • Size: Adult mountain lions can measure up to 8 feet long from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail.
  • Color: These majestic creatures have a tan or tawny-colored coat, which is evenly distributed across their body.
  • Tail: Mountain lions possess a long, thick tail with a dark tip.

Beyond their physical characteristics, understanding the behavior of mountain lions can be crucial in avoiding conflicts. These elusive creatures are known for being primarily active during twilight and dawn. They are also highly territorial and tend to avoid humans whenever possible. If you ever come across a mountain lion, it is important to stay calm and avoid sudden movements or direct eye contact.

Habitat And Range

Mountain lions are adaptable and can be found in a variety of habitats throughout the Americas. These include:

  1. Mountains: These majestic felines are highly skilled climbers and are often found in mountainous regions.
  2. Forests: With their stealth and agility, mountain lions are well-suited for forested areas.
  3. Deserts: Contrary to popular belief, mountain lions can also thrive in desert environments where there is sufficient prey.

Understanding the range of mountain lions is essential when living or exploring their territories. They can be found from the southern tip of South America all the way up to the northern regions of Canada.

Safety Precautions

Encountering a mountain lion can be an unnerving experience, but being prepared and knowing how to react can greatly increase your safety. By following a few simple safety precautions, you can minimize the risk of an encounter turning into a dangerous situation. In this section, we will discuss recognizing signs of mountain lions, as well as the dos and don’ts when facing one.

Recognizing Signs Of Mountain Lions

Recognizing signs of mountain lions in an area can help you take necessary precautions and avoid any close encounters. Keep an eye out for the following signs:

  • Paw prints: Mountain lions have distinctive paw prints characterized by three lobes on the back of their heel pad. If you come across fresh tracks that resemble a large cat, it’s a potential sign of their presence.
  • Scat: Mountain lion scat is often cylindrical and segmented, similar to that of a large house cat. It may contain remains of a deer or other prey.
  • Scratch marks: Look for claw marks on trees or other surfaces. Mountain lions use scratch marks to communicate with other individuals and mark their territory.
  • Kill sites: If you stumble upon remains of a partially eaten animal, especially a deer, it could indicate that a mountain lion is active in the area.
  • Audio cues: Listen for low growls or screams that resemble a distressed animal. Mountain lions may vocalize to communicate or establish territory.

Dos And Don’ts When Encountering A Mountain Lion

If you find yourself face-to-face with a mountain lion, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind:

Do Don’t
Do stay calm and maintain eye contact with the mountain lion. Avoid sudden movements that could trigger an attack. Don’t run away. Rapid movements can trigger the mountain lion’s instinct to chase.
Do try to make yourself appear larger by raising and waving your arms, if it’s a safe distance away. Don’t crouch down or turn your back on the mountain lion, as it may perceive you as easy prey.
Do speak firmly and assertively to show dominance, while avoiding shouting or screaming. Don’t approach the mountain lion or attempt to touch it, no matter how docile it may seem.
Do back away slowly while facing the mountain lion. Give it a clear path to escape. Don’t leave children or pets unattended outside, as they may unknowingly attract mountain lions.
Do make noise by clapping your hands or shouting, especially if the mountain lion shows signs of aggression. Don’t feed or try to lure the mountain lion away with food, as it can encourage dependency or habituation.

Remember, it’s important to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings when in mountain lion country. By understanding the signs and knowing how to react, you can enjoy the outdoors while minimizing risks and ensuring your safety.

Protecting Yourself And Your Community

If you encounter a mountain lion, it’s crucial to stay calm and avoid running. Maintain eye contact, back away slowly, and make yourself appear larger by raising your arms or opening your jacket.

Living in areas where mountain lions are present requires vigilance and preparedness. By taking proactive measures, you can minimize the risk of encountering a mountain lion and ensure the safety of yourself and your community. This section will provide guidelines on preventing mountain lion encounters, what to do after an encounter, and reporting mountain lion sightings.

Preventing Mountain Lion Encounters

Prevention is key when it comes to mountain lion encounters. By following these simple guidelines, you can reduce the likelihood of coming face-to-face with a mountain lion:

  1. Keep your property well-maintained by removing potential hiding spots such as dense shrubs and low-hanging branches.
  2. Install motion-activated lights around your property to deter mountain lions from approaching.
  3. Avoid leaving any food sources or attractants outdoors, including pet food, bird feeders, and unsecured trash bins.
  4. Keep a close eye on small children and pets when they are outside, especially during dawn and dusk when mountain lions are most active.
  5. If you frequently hike or jog in mountain lion habitats, consider going in groups and making noise to make your presence known.

What To Do After A Mountain Lion Encounter

If you find yourself in a situation where you encounter a mountain lion, it’s crucial to stay calm and take the following steps:

  1. Do not approach the mountain lion or turn your back on it. Instead, face the lion and maintain eye contact without staring aggressively.
  2. Make yourself appear larger by raising your arms and opening your jacket. Speak firmly and confidently, showing the mountain lion that you are a threat.
  3. Give the mountain lion an avenue for escape by slowly backing away. Do not run, as this may trigger its natural instinct to chase.
  4. If the mountain lion acts aggressively and approaches you, throw any nearby objects, such as rocks or branches, at it to deter its advance.
  5. Once you are at a safe distance, ensure your safety by alerting authorities and reporting the encounter.

Reporting Mountain Lion Sightings

Reporting mountain lion sightings is essential for the preservation of the local community. By promptly notifying the appropriate authorities, you can contribute to tracking mountain lion movements and implementing necessary safety measures. Take the following steps to report mountain lion sightings:

  1. Contact your local wildlife or animal control agency to report the sighting.
  2. Provide accurate details such as the date, time, and precise location of the sighting.
  3. Describe the mountain lion’s behavior and any distinguishing features to assist authorities in identification.
  4. Follow any additional instructions or guidance provided by the authorities.

By understanding how to prevent encounters, how to act during an encounter, and the importance of reporting sightings, you can play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of yourself and your community. Be prepared, remain vigilant, and coexist harmoniously with these majestic creatures that share our natural surroundings.

Frequently Asked Questions On What To Do If You See A Mountain Lion

Will A Mountain Lion Attack A Human?

Yes, mountain lion attacks on humans can occur but they are rare.

Should I Call 911 If I See A Mountain Lion?

If you see a mountain lion, call 911 immediately for your safety.

Should You Avoid Eye Contact With A Mountain Lion?

Yes, you should avoid eye contact with a mountain lion. It is important to show submission and not provoke it.

Do Mountain Lions See You Before You See Them?

Mountain lions often see humans before humans see them due to their excellent vision and camouflage. They possess incredible stealth and use their keen senses to remain undetected in their surroundings.


Encountering a mountain lion can be a frightening experience, but there are steps you can take to ensure your safety. Stay calm, make yourself appear larger, and avoid running. Remember, mountain lions are typically elusive and will likely avoid confrontation if given the chance.

By following these guidelines and being prepared, you can confidently navigate encounters with these majestic creatures while respecting their natural habitat. Stay informed and stay safe!

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