Cougars: planning for an encounter

Cougar pupJust kidding! A little hubris was creeping in there…

Even if the chances of a cougar encounter are very remote, and the likelihood of an attack even slimmer, we must all be aware that the possibility exists, and prepare ourselves with a plan for what to do.

Children: Remember, most cougar attacks have been on children and youths under the age of 16. Cougars are especially drawn to small children, perhaps because their high-pitched voices and erratic movements make them harder to identify as humans and not prey. So keep your kids close by, and if you encounter a cougar, pick small children up off the ground immediately.

Adults: If you meet a cougar while hiking or working in cougar country, follow these guidelines:

  • Never approach a cougar. Normally they will avoid a confrontation, but they can be dangerous when protecting their young or their food. All cougars are unpredictable.
  • Leave the cougar an avenue of escape.
  • Face the cougar and remain upright.
  • Back away slowly. Do not run or turn your back to the cougar.
  • Stay calm. Talk to the cougar in a confident voice. “Good kitty, that’s a good kitty…”
  • Make yourself as big as possible. Pick up sticks or branches and wave them about. Raise your arms in the air.

If the cougar becomes aggressive:Angry cougar

  • Convince the cougar you are a threat, not prey.
  • Throw rocks at the cougar.
  • Speak loudly and firmly.
  • Brandish a big stick. (Or cattle prod, if you happen to have one handy!)
  • If the cougar attacks, fight back.

Many people have survived a cougar attack by fighting back with rocks, sticks, bare fists, fishing poles, back packs, and so on.

Now you have a plan for protecting yourself and your children if you should encounter a cougar. And you also know that the chances of encountering a cougar are very small. You run a much greater risk of being harmed by a bee, another human, or a car.

In the next few postings I will talk about cougar signs that you can watch out for, neat facts about cougars, and the special circumstance of encountering a cougar while on a vision quest or vision fast(to be continued)

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