Hey all you cool cats and kittens!
We installed a couple game cameras awhile back here at Alderbrook Resort and Spa and it didn’t take long to catch some photographs of a cougar. As exciting as it was to see such an awesome animal, I couldn’t help but feel a primeval chill go down my spine knowing there could be a mountain lion lurking over in the bushes.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are cougars passing through these woods. There are 2,000 of them across the state, and four in every 100 square miles where there’s adequate habitat. Cougars are extremely shy and elusive, which makes the chances of an encounter miniscule, let alone an “attack”.
With that being said, we still ought to prepare ourselves so we can avoid incidents like the one caught on video in Utah earlier this year. The person can be seen going towards the momma cougar and her kittens at the start of the video, which is one of the easiest ways to prompt a potentially dangerous response from a cougar. Here is what the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife suggests you do in the off chance of an encounter:
Stop, pick up small children immediately, and don’t run. Running and rapid movements may trigger an attack. Remember, at close range, a cougar’s instinct is to chase.
Face the cougar. Talk to it firmly while slowly backing away. Always leave the animal an escape route.
Try to appear larger than the cougar. Get above it (e.g., step up onto a rock or stump). If wearing a jacket, hold it open to further increase your apparent size. If you are in a group, stand shoulder-to-shoulder to appear intimidating.
Do not take your eyes off the cougar or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
Never approach the cougar, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens, and never offer it food.
If the cougar does not flee, be more assertive. If it shows signs of aggression (crouches with ears back, teeth bared, hissing, tail twitching, and hind feet pumping in preparation to jump), shout, wave your arms and throw anything you have available (water bottle, book, backpack). The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
If the cougar attacks, fight back. Be aggressive and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back using anything within reach, including sticks, rocks, shovels, backpacks, and clothing—even bare hands. If you are aggressive enough, a cougar will flee, realizing it has made a mistake. Pepper spray in the cougar’s face is also effective in the extreme unlikelihood of a close encounter with a cougar.
Amazingly, we can cohabitate with these cool cats, as they don’t want anything to do with us and play a very important role in our ecosystem as an apex predator. The important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t let our fear of cougars keep us from enjoying the great outdoors.