As you set out to enjoy a nature hike, the bushes start to rattle. And since it’s not a windy day, that means you have company.
There is no such thing as a solitary hike when you’re in cougar territory. And since cougars will stalk you for a long time, waiting for the right opportunity to attack, one could pounce on you at any time.
If you’re thinking of running, you may want to think again. Cougars, also called mountain lions, can bound up to 13 m (40 ft) when they’re running, leap 4.6 m (15 ft) and sprint up to 80 km/h (50 mph). And they climb trees too. So you’ll need another plan to live through this attack.
And they’re not small animals. Cougars can weigh over 90 kg (200 lb) and have razor-sharp claws. With an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 mountain lions living in the American West, your nature hike could turn deadly.
Why should you wave your hands in the air? Would removing your sunglasses help? And how could a staring contest save your life?
Step 1: Face Your Fear
While your instinct may be to turn away from the cougar, it could get you killed. From the moment you see a mountain lion or cougar kittens, you should start backing away slowly. Stay calm, and face the cat without turning your head at any time.
Step 2: Fight Back
If you’re unlucky, and the beast tackles you, fight back with all your strength. And don’t be afraid to fight dirty.
Try to kick it, hit it with a rock or smack it with an object.
Remember to go for the animal’s eyes, nose, ears and sensitive parts. That will cause extreme pain in the cat. Just ask Travis Kauffman, who was running through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Northern Colorado when he got attacked.
The 31-year-old heard some rustling and the sound of a stick snapping behind him. He stopped, threw his hands in the air, and started shouting.
As the mountain lion lunged towards him, Kauffman threw his fists up for protection, but the animal mauled his face.
Then his fight response kicked in. As he wrestled with the animal, they tumbled off the trail.
Eventually, he climbed on top of the animal and was able to pin its back legs. Then he stepped on the mountain lion’s throat.
When the animal finally stopped moving, Kauffman freed his wrist from the cougar’s mouth and ran away. Kauffman had been mauled by a juvenile mountain lion and suffocated it in self-defense.
Step 3: Don’t Run
Running isn’t a good idea when facing a predator that moves a lot faster than you do. Remember, a cougar’s primary prey is deer. Attacks on humans are unusual, partly because cougars do not perceive humans as prey. And in cougars, recognizing prey is a learned behavior.
Let’s hope that the cougar in front of you has not been around many humans. The more humans that cougars encounter, the more accustomed they become to us, making them more familiar with human looks and smells. And the more familiar they become with our looks and smells, the more they might start to identify us as prey.
Step 4: Go Big
If you see a cougar, make yourself as big and fearsome as you can. Stand upright, and make yourself as tall as possible. Raise your arms over your head, and keep waving them from side to side. Make the cat think you’re bigger than it is. And back away slowly.
Step 5: Maintain Eye Contact
This is no time to be shy. Maintain constant, direct eye contact, and take off your sunglasses. Always look directly at a cougar. It helps to portray a strong, defiant attitude while keeping the mountain lion defensive and engaged.
And remember, cougars aren’t the only deadly cats out there. Believe it or not, one of the deadliest cats could be living in your house right now.