Troubleshoot This: Stalked by a Cougar

Cougar attacks are vanishingly rare, but that doesn't mean they never happen.

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Assess “Most attacks are surprises, so often there’s no chance to be proactive,” warns biologist Rick Hopkins. Cats are most active from dusk to dawn, and they follow
their prey. If you’re in deer or elk territory, stay especially alert. If you see a mountain lion and it’s hissing, crouching, or flattening its ears, it may be preparing to pounce.

Make space Attacks are most likely in rocky and brushy terrain, where cats can stay hidden. If you corner one, slowly back away to give it an escape route. If you see
cubs, move into open terrain.

Stand your ground Cougars are not usually aggressive, so they’ll likely leave you alone if you don’t run, but quick movements may trigger predatory instincts.

Act large Wave your arms or poles, shout, and throw stones or sticks (if you can grab them without crouching or turning your back).

Fight back If a cougar lunges, use anything you have (bear spray, knives, sticks) to defend against the attack or to strike it (aim for the eyes and nose). Keep fighting.

Gut check “If cougars saw people as food, there’d be hundreds of attacks a year instead of one or two. Don’t act like prey, and you won’t be a victim.” —Rick Hopkins

Safety in Numbers Mountain lion attacks on multiple hikers are very rare; walk with a friend.

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