Camping and hiking information
with tips for parents
Camping and hiking information
with tips for parents

Cougars and Mountain Lions

Cougars and mountain lions are actually the same animal. These beautiful creatures inspire awe and fear in campers and hikers everywhere. Do you know what the most dangerous animal in North America is?

What is this deadly animal?
It's a dog.
Most people are not afraid of dogs but are terrified of mountain lions. Your children are in far more danger from the dogs in the campground. Mountain lions are dangerous, but please try to keep this danger in perspective!

Mountain Lion attack statistics

There have been 10 deaths caused by mountain lions in the United States from 1890 to today. Five of these deaths have taken place in the last 10 years. It is clear that this problem is increasing. It is still more likely that you will be struck by lightening than be attacked by a cougar. Why are attacks on the rise? There are several reasons why mountain lion attacks are on the rise. There are more mountain lions. At one time mountain lions were quite scarce due to hunting. Many areas are now protecting the mountain lion from hunters and this is causing an increase in the mountain lion population. As mountain lions become more populous their range areas are also increasing. The population of humans is also on the rise. More and more people are recreating in the outdoors. Fitness is also much more popular than it once was and this has also contributed to an increase in the number of people recreating outdoors.

Both of these factors have brought humans and cougars into the same areas and have forced interaction between man and cat. Mountain lions are relatively harmless in most situations - if you know what to do! The wrong behavior from you or your children could initiate an attack that could easily be avoided with a little mountain lion know-how.

How to avoid or prevent a mountain lion attack

The Lion I met

I have encountered a mountain lion while hiking. I was carrying my one year old in a baby backpack and was resting on the trail. My husband had hiked on ahead to see if the trail was safe for a person carrying a baby backpack.

We left the trail head quite early in the morning and were almost 4 miles from the trail head with nobody in site. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye (I never heard a thing) and turned. I saw a mountain lion about 200 feet up the trail from me.

I initially froze. I knew all of the 'rules' for encountering a mountain lion - but it was pretty scary just the same! The mountain lion had stopped on the trail and was looking at me. I stood up as tall as I could (I'm only 5'1" - but I did what I could) I was preparing to wave my arms and yell loudly when the lion turned away from me and disappeared into the brush.

I reported the incident to park personnel. There were few sitings in the park (due to the incredible numbers of visitors this park has) but a mountain lion had been sited in the same area I had been in on a few occasions.

This experience was a bit alarming but I don't feel that I was in any danger. I just practiced the safety rules I had been taught  and the lion went away. 

This siting took place at Arches National Park on the 'Devils Garden' trail on the primitive loop just past the Double O arch.

Links to mountain lion web pages

Mountain Lion - a great page by Desert USA
The California Mountain Lion Association
Mountain Lions by Gajji - A school report with basic info on mountain lions

If you do encounter a cougar be sure to report your siting to park personnel!

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