One of the many benefits of spending time out in nature is getting to see incredible wildlife in their natural environment. While it’s always a special experience to see wildlife in person, animal encounters can quickly turn from magical to dangerous.
Although deer and elk, for example, usually avoid humans and will rarely attack unless provoked, some other animals aren’t as nonchalant when it comes to human interactions. Anytime you are hiking or camping in bear country, you have to be especially cautious to prevent surprising a bear.
Mountain lions aren’t spotted as frequently as other animals but can be quite dangerous if they do attack. So how can you prevent an attack? Will camping in a tent provide enough protection should a mountain lion enter your campsite?
So, will a mountain lion attack a tent?
Mountain lion will not attack a tent unless there is something seriously wrong such as injury, disease, or starvation. It is much safer to sleep inside a tent than simply in a sleeping bag on the ground, especially if you are camping in an area where there are mountain lions.
Whenever you are camping in an area with mountain lions, a tent is always the best form of shelter. Even though a tarp or hammock can be a lightweight option, a tent provides more protection and is more of a deterrent to animal attacks.
How to Prevent Mountain Lion Attacks on a Tent
Anytime you are camping in a tent, you should take protective measures to ensure that nothing at your campsite or in the tent can attract wildlife. This means you should never store food or anything with a strong scent inside the tent.
Secure all food, snacks, and leftovers inside a vehicle or a food storage locker if one is provided at the campground. Don’t keep toiletries such as toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, or bug spray inside the tent either because the smells can attract animals.
If any clothing or gear such as a backpack or sleeping bag has lingering scents of food on it, air it out or clean it before taking it to use while camping. Food spills or stains should be cleaned and the smell should not be strong enough to lure wildlife.
These same precautions should also be taken any time you are camping in a place where there are bears present. Even if you don’t know for sure what kind of wildlife is around, it doesn’t hurt to remove any food from the tent just to be on the safe side.
Should you be sleeping in your tent at night and hear a mountain lion enter your campsite, start to make noise to scare it away. However, remain inside the tent and use a whistle or air horn, play music, or clang metal dishes together to startle it.
Most mountain lions are not aggressive in the sense that they are not looking for a fight. Chances are pretty good that they will get startled and move away if there is an unknown or frightening sound.
Never set up a campsite in an area that has fresh mountain lion tracks or other evidence of their presence such as scat. Try to avoid putting your tent in areas that are located near places where mountain lions have been seen or are thought to live and hunt.
Also, do not place your tent in a covered area or close to any steep facings. Many big cats like mountain lions tend to attack from above in a tree or on a rock.
Some people recommend keeping a fire lit at all times to deter mountain lions, but it is unclear if this is truly an effective method. Also, having a fire unattended during the night can be a hazard so it is not recommended.
If you notice there are a lot of animals coming close to your campsite, there is the possibility that you have camped close to their den or home. In that case, you should probably relocate further away so you aren’t viewed as threatening.
How to Prevent Mountain Lion Attacks When Camping or Hiking
Mountain lions are at their most active during dawn or dusk which is when they could also be hunting. Try to avoid walking or hiking alone during these times because you could be mistaken as prey.
Although mountain lion attacks on humans are rare, most occur when people are in motion, usually running, skiing, hiking, or biking. It is thought that mountain lions see the person as prey and begin to chase and attack them.
When you are out on trails, try to go with a group of people to reduce the risk of an attack. If this is not possible, make noise while hiking or jogging. You can play music or just carry on a conversation at a slightly louder volume than usual.
If the trail has a lot of turns or corners, make noise periodically and especially before proceeding around a corner. You can blow a whistle or ring a bell to alert any nearby animals to your presence.
Most adults are too big to be attacked but mountain lions could view children as possible targets. Any time you are camping with young children, never leave them unattended and keep them within sight at all times.
Anytime you need to gather water or firewood, do so in pairs or with a group of people. Don’t be alone away from the tent or campsite. Even going to the bathroom alone should be avoided as much as possible.
What to Do If a Mountain Lion Attacks
Should you come face to face with a mountain lion, there are several things you can do to warn them away. Never run away, make sudden movements, or turn your back on the animal.
Don’t try to run away because you won’t be able to outrun them because mountain lions can run up to 50 miles per hour. They usually chase running prey which is why most people are attacked while jogging, biking, or skiing.
Also, if you try to run away there is a chance you might fall due to uneven terrain or nervousness. This would cause the mountain lion to view you as prey or see you as vulnerable and prompt an attack.
Instead, remain calm and make sure the mountain lion has an escape route so they do not feel cornered. Make eye contact with them and do everything you can to make yourself look bigger and taller.
Raise your jacket or backpack over your head and refrain from crouching or bending down because you could be mistaken for a four-legged animal. Don’t try to hide either or show signs of fear because that will look like weakness to the mountain lion.
If you are with a group of people gather or cluster together to look like a bigger threat Pick up any children immediately and keep them close to your body.
Grab a stick or branch to wave around or use trekking poles if you have them. You can also wave your arms in the air or throw an item at the mountain lion. Letting the mountain lion know that you aren’t easy prey and will dissuade them from attacking.
If the animal does make contact and begin to attack, don’t play dead. Fight back with as much force as you can and the animal will likely give up and leave.
Protect any vital body parts such as your head, neck, and throat to avoid life-threatening injuries. Bear spray may also be an effective deterrent against mountain lions.
Once the mountain lion realizes you are human and not prey, they will usually want nothing to do with you and walk away. If you see a mountain lion on a trail or out in the wild, never follow it or try to get close to it.
A Note on Mountain Lion Attacks
Seeing a mountain lion while camping or hiking is a rare experience since these animals mostly stay away from people. Although they might know where you are, they usually won’t make themselves seen.
In North America, there have been only 125 attacks in the last 100 years. Of those, only 27 were fatal. Since 2000 there have only been 5 fatal attacks on humans.
This means the chances of being attacked by a mountain lion are extremely rare. Most of the attacks were on people in motion who were probably mistaken for prey.
Sleeping campers are very rarely attacked and mountain lions do not usually try to attack a tent or enter it. Although a mountain lion would probably be able to tear a tent open, they will not attack in this manner or view tents as prey.
Mountain lions are not usually confrontational and do not want anything to do with humans. Even if you know mountain lions are nearby, you will more than likely be safe inside your tent when camping.
In conclusion, mountain lions are not known to attack tents and will probably leave you alone if you are inside your tent. Take extra measures to animal-proof your campsite so mountain lions do not see it as an inviting place to be.
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