Mountain lions, also known as cougars, panthers, pumas and America’s Lion, are typically difficult to spot and even harder to encounter. However, mountain lion attacks are becoming more prevalent as their territory is invaded by human development.
Just this month a young boy in Colorado suffered serious injuries from a mountain lion that attacked him in his yard. Colorado alone has had twenty-two mountain lion attacks in the past twenty years. So what will work as a defense against a mountain lion? A commonly available deterrent, pepper spray, just might do the trick.
So does pepper spray work on mountain lions?
Pepper spray and bear spray will work on mountain lions. Their sense of smell makes them even more susceptible to pepper spray, and it should work if you can hit your target. However, mountain lions like to ambush their prey and may be in close quarters before you are aware they are there. This means the pepper spray will work on the mountain lion, but you will probably get a dose as well.
Better to get pepper-sprayed than eaten though!
Does Pepper Spray Work on Mountain Lions – Whats does work?
Even though mountain lions do not hunt people, it is always a good idea to remain alert in mountain lion territory. Also, to protect yourself and your pets, you can consider carrying defense tools like pepper spray.
Mountain lions, like other cats, have a keen sense of smell. Therefore, they can usually be scared off with a healthy dose of pepper spray to the face in the case of an attack. However, it may be difficult to hit your target.
In rare cases, mountain lions have been known to stalk people. They, like other cats, are stealthy and fast-moving. If you are surprised by a mountain lion, it might prove hard to access your pepper spray and spray it. Mountain lions, when attacking, typically go for the head or neck.
Bear spray is another powerful tool when fighting off a mountain lion. You could also use a firearm, knife, or any other weapon. If you have nothing at hand, consider using a rock, branch, or whatever is accessible.
Other helpful tools to bring along with you include an air horn if you suspect you are being stalked or encounter a mountain lion a loud blast may help startle them away. And, trekking poles taken on your hike can be used as weapons to defend yourself should an attack occur.
Unfortunately, dogs and small children are of interest to mountain lions and may lure them. If you are attacked and without your pepper spray, there are a few things you can do to try and survive.
What To Do During a Mountain Lion Attack
If you are attacked by a mountain lion, you should put up a fight. Do not run away and do not play dead. In many cases, after a few minutes of a struggle, a mountain lion will decide that you are not worth the effort.
Humans, depending on their age and size, can rival or exceed mountain lions in weight. Therefore, you have a pretty good chance of fighting off an attacking cat.
You may suspect that you are being stalked if the environment becomes eerily quiet. Also, if you find a fresh deer carcass or another animal a mountain lion may be near. Mountain lions are stealthy, but you can identify their tracks, they leave a round footprint with teardrop-shaped toe imprints and usually no claw markings.
If you are being attacked or stalked, you should stand your ground and try to make yourself appear larger in any way possible. You can raise your arms, lift a coat or jacket above your head, or any other tactics to make yourself look big.
Unlike with some bear, species do not run, crouch or bend, or play dead. If you run from a mountain lion, you may trigger their natural hunting instinct to chase. If you are standing, you do not resemble their usual prey, but if you crouch, bend, or play dead you may provoke an attack.
You can speak loudly and firmly at the mountain lion to let them know you are not prey. If making yourself appear larger and talking in a loud voice does not startle the mountain lion away, you should prepare to fight back.
As mentioned, mountain lions will usually aim for the head and neck. You should try to remain standing and fight off the mountain lion by hitting it or kicking it if you can maintain balance. Using a rock or large stick may also be helpful.
Hopefully, after a few minutes of fighting the mountain lion will decide that you are not worth the effort and leave. After an attack, you should contact 911 if you require medical assistance and also report the attack to your local rangers or forestry patrol officers.
How to Keep Mountain Lions Away From You and Your Campsite
There are preventative measures you can take to limit your chances of encountering a mountain lion. As these large cats have been known to be lured by children and pets, which they may view as prey, you should keep your animals and kids in very close proximity at all times.
It may also be helpful to attach a bell to your pet’s collar. As they move through the mountain lions territory, the sound of the bell should give any prowling animals a fair warning that you and your pet are coming, allowing them time to vacate the area.
Some individuals go hiking with a radio when they are in mountain lion territory. The sound may detract from the natural ambiance, but mountain lions tend to shy away from the human voice and do not like loud and startling noises.
It is best not to hike alone while in mountain lion territory and to stay with a group. Dawn and dusks are times when mountain lion attacks may be more prevalent as the animal may have difficulty distinguishing you from its prey and typically hunts at these hours.
If you are going out to find firewood, fetch water, or visit the bathroom, it is best to go in pairs.
When you are hiking, it is best to either pick up small children or keep them in between you and other adults. If you hear mewling of kittens, you may be approaching mountain lion cubs. As they are protective of their young, you should avoid any area where cubs are suspected.
At your campsite, do not leave out food but seal it in an airtight container; much like you would when camping in bear country. Dispose of all trash, wash your cooking and eating utensils, and keep a clean campsite.
It is advisable to sleep inside your tent. Mountain lions will not usually attack at random, especially if they cannot see what is inside. If you are asleep and wake up to a mountain lion, you should make as much noise as possible to scare it off.
A Little Bit About Mountain Lions
Mountain lions are occasionally referred to as the cat of many names, and for good reason. Mountainlion.org states, “Mountain lions once ranged more extensively than any other mammal in the Western Hemisphere…from the Canadian Yukon to the Straits of Magellan…and from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific Ocean”.
Because of this, early humans regularly encountered them, and each group or tribe typically gave the large cat a different name. This resulted in mountain lions having over forty different English titles.
These big cats are considered one of the smallest of the “big cat family” but can still grow quite large. Males can exceed eight feet, measured from nose tip to tail, and females average around seven feet. A male mountain line usually weighs between 130 and 150 feet while a female weighs in between 65 and 90 pounds.
They are typically tan or grey in color and can blend in well with their surroundings, inhabiting rocky canyons, mountainsides, and forests. Their most common prey is deer, so wherever deer are present, a mountain lion could be nearby. This means they can also be found in coastal forests, deserts, and at great elevations.
Mountain lions are solitary creatures and are known to be elusive. This makes them difficult to study, and their total population numbers are still relatively unknown. However, the Mountain Lion Foundation estimates the US population to be under 30,000.
Because their home range can be around one-hundred square miles, their territory frequently falls victim to human expansion and development. As a result, a significant amount of mountain lions are killed by humans each year by cars, firearms, or other methods.
Mountain lions like dense vegetation for cover and will usually run from a threat. They do not seek out interactions with humans but may attack if cornered or in rare cases starving. Running from them can trigger their natural hunting instinct, so it is not advised.
Be Aware But Don’t Camp in Fear
Mountain lion encounters and attacks do happen, but they are not frequent by any means. Mountain lions tend to be timid and avoid contact with humans unless they are sick or truly starving.
In most cases, once a mountain lion realizes that you are a human and not prey, it will give up the fight and scamper off. Still, it is vital to be aware and prepared when camping and hiking in mountain lion territory.
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