Q: I don't know how acquainted you are with mountain lions, but can you ask one what they think of small children in the wild? Do they look like prey or do mountain lions try to avoid them? What should a
parent do to keep their children safe?—love2hike, via email
A: How dare you ask a mountain lion question in this forum—I'm a bear, for Bjorn's sake! Just kidding: While I'm not exactly tight with mountain lions, I know plenty of 'em, since we live in the same general neighborhood.
I'll tell ya what they think of small children in the wild: "mmm-mmmm tasty." While mountain lions are often shy and secretive, small children would fall right into their prey category, and captured wild mountain lions have shown particular attraction to small children. In fact, most recent mountain lion attacks on humans have been directed towards kids.
That all sounds scary, but no need to panic. Just keep your little ones close to you in the wild, and never let them out of your sight, even for a few minutes (a good general rule for the wild, or the supermarket). The noises you make as people will probably scare off cougars long before you notice them, and they are less likely to take a chance on nabbing a kid if an adult is nearby.
If you encounter a mountain lion with your child, immediately pull them close and pick them up without turning around or crouching. This serves a dual purpose: It lessens the chance a mountain lion can separate you from your child, and it makes you look bigger and more intimidating. Start yelling, making noise, throwing rocks, and you'll likely find out this fearsome beast is more fraidy cat than anything else. If it attacks, use rocks, sticks, your jacket, and even your bare hands to fight the cougar off while protecting your head and neck. It'll most likely work.
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