One of North America’s most elusive yet deadly predators is the Cougar. Also know as the Mountain Lion, an encounter on the trail or backyard with one of these animals is not to be taken lightly.
The cougar prefers to live near dense woodlands, close to places with a good view, such as mountain sides. They are common in the Rocky Mountains from the British Columbia interior down through the West of the United States and in the Northern United States through to Northern Ontario.
Cougars can grow to sizes of 120lbs and can pounce on prey from distances of 30 feet. A fully grown cougar is capable of taking down a 600lb moose and it’s natural prey are deer, along with elk, mountain goats, raccoons, rabbits, and beaver.
If food is scarce they will also attack livestock. Encounters are most likely during the late spring and early summer as cougars leave home for the first time and search out unoccupied territory. Cougars are most active at dawn and dusk, but will roam anytime of the day or night all year long. Cougars are very unpredictable and will attack without warning.
When hiking in cougar country, walk in groups of two or more people. Keep children close by as cougars are attracted to small children. Their high-pitched voices and small size make children easy prey for these large cats. Carry a large walking stick to use as a weapon if necessary and make noise while travelling so as not to surprise the animals.
Keep an eye out for cougar tracks; their footprint is very similar to a house cat, but around 4 inches in length. The claws are retractable and may not always be evident in a footprint. Cougars will cover unconsumed food with dirt or leaves, so try to avoid anything that resembles an interrupted meal. If you find cougar kittens, leave them alone, and leave the area. The mother is very likely not far away and will defend her kittens viciously.
If you come across a cougar do not approach it. Cougars will likely try to avoid a confrontation, but are unpredictable and may attack without warning. A cougar will protect its food, so disturbing one that is eating may be particularly dangerous. Stay calm and give the animal a way to escape. Do not corner it! Speak to it in a confident voice while using a posture that enlarges your image. It is much better to be seen as a threat than a prey.
When travelling with children, pick them up immediately upon sighting the cougar. The erratic movements of children can cause an attack. Having them in your arms will also make you appear larger and more of a threat to the animal. Do not turn your back on a cougar and do not run. Instead, face the cougar and back away slowly.
If the cougar appears ready to attack, arm yourself with a large walking stick or tree branch. Throw rocks and speak firmly in a loud voice. Do what ever you can to make yourself appear as a threat to the animal without provoking it further. If the cougar does attack, fight back. Use the walking stick or branch as a club, hit it with rocks, or use a knife or your fists.
Encounters and attacks with cougars are rare in North America, they do happen. Prepare yourself and your children, so you know what to do in case of an encounter with one of North America’s most powerful and mysterious creatures.
Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson