What would you do?

(A rhetorical question) I was fishing at Cottonwood Lake near Buena Vista, CO over the weekend. Friday evening I paddled about on the fringes of the lake where it is too marshy for walker/waders and landed a few 10" browns on a #16 Addams. All in all a pleasant evening. Saturday I walked up the crik above the lake and fished the beaver ponds. More nice little browns brought in. As I was making my way along the stream, on the side with the heavy brush cover, I looked down and spotted a fresh mountain lion track in the sand. It didn’t take long to decide that the cover on that side of the crik was no place to walk near and waded back to the other side which was just grass, small shrubs, and thin stands of aspen. The cat wasn’t going to stop my fishing, but I wasn’t going to make myself easy prey either. Now I’m back at work and wishing I didn’t have to work so much in prime dry-fly season. Happy day dreams, all.

Cat story
Once when hiking through a mountain meadow with knee high grass a mountain lion jumped up about 30 feet in front of me and proceeded to run off into the tree line about 100 yards away. Startled the heck out of me. Then I saw what the cat was up to. A relatively new calf was bedded down just ahead and I’m sure the cat was about to jump it. The adult cows were on the other side of the meadow. I had no weapons on me and it was about 3 miles bak to my cabin. I was looking over my shoulder the whole way back.

Fortunately . . .
the calf looked tastier to the mountain lion than you did!

We live out in the woods in western NC. When a mountain lion was spotted by the neighbors during the wee hours, I quit working in my office across the yard and started night work in the house.

Don’t trust em’
I would be especially alert while near any taller rock outcroppings or trees as I have heard that mt lions typically pounce down on their prey from above if possible. It gives them more “knock down power” to take larger prey.

I am not a cat person!


We’ve had a few attacks
over the years in Colorado. One was a young lady jogging in the mountains that unfortunately resembled prey. Another was a kid that looked like easy pickin’s. A guy living in the hills west of Boulder had to shoot one that was trying to make lunch out of his German Shepherd and a danger to his kids. It had been hanging around his home for about a week. They’re usually scared of humans unless they can get the drop on you.

I’d have treated it like a snake
****ed my pants, then run like ****.

  • Big D

Been plenty close to them
and I agree with the previous post :slight_smile:

They are astonishingly quiet.

Camping in southern MN several years ago had one watching us in camp and never knew it till I wandered to the edge of camp to pee. It ran away but was not more than a 20 feet from me. I ran away too. I know you are not supposed to run, but that is definitely not what my brain told my feet. In the morning I took my pistol and checked out the perimiter, and there were tracks along the edge of camp, and a couple places where it sat and watched. Never saw it again. I am guessing it was lured in more by catfish guts than juicy campers, but still creepy.

fresh tracks are kinda exciting to find

– Last Updated: Sep-07-09 2:12 AM EST –

..... be it a bear , a cat or other .

But beings as you are in a higher populated big cat area , it might be advisable to carry some defense , like bear spray and stun gun ... and have them cocked and ready for quick deployment .

If the tracks were like new fresh , the chances are 50/50 it knows you are there to , maybe it's watching you ... maybe not anymore .

If you see it stalking you , it probably has the intention of eating you , or is thinking about it , so pull out the spray and be prepaired ... if if gets too close chase it off with the spray . It's not always a surprise attack you know .

Agree with other poster about boulder high grounds ... so flat areas with more time for you to react give you some advantage ... the cougar makes lots of noise at attack , but stalks in silence .

As for what would I do ... probably much like you do and try to limit chances of being surprise attacked by tight un-open spaces , and try to keep enough open space around me that I have time to react and stand up defense mode ... you know they are there somewhere anyhow , right .

You did the smart thing without being

– Last Updated: Sep-07-09 11:15 PM EST –

so overcautious that you quit and went home. If you see a cougar in the wild, be grateful. That's a rare treat.

I've been hunting/tracking/learning cougars solo in recent winters and have called 14 up close (that I know about). During a lifetime in wild places of the west, I've gotten used to cougars following me. They often follow humans, and even "stalk" us but most of the time that doesn't mean they are going to attack. It's a cat thing.

A cougar stalked me and crouched uphill behind my back. It was 21 feet from me when my hunting partner saw it. He shot at it and missed. I never saw that one either, just tracks in the snow. A cougar expert friend of mine said that they are so unpredictable that he had no idea what the cat had in mind but he wouldn't like to be in my place just in case.

I've never seen one that followed me, but have found cougar tracks on mine a number of times in snow or mud when I backtracked. FWIW I don't carry a side arm nor spray when hunting or hiking, nor any kind of firearm when fishing. That's a personal risk/safety and cumbersome choice, not a reccomendation for others. A cougar attack could happen, but it is about as likely as lightening so I don't think we should let it stop us from going outdoors. But I'd be cautious, keep to open as much as possible, etc. in an area with super fresh tracks.

Several cougar tracks in a relatively small area of an acre or few indicate that the cat has a kill nearby and is staying close to it for a few days till it is all eaten. With a line of tracks in mud, dust or snow, you can usually tell what the cougar is doing and whether he is likely to be somewhere near or is travelling and is probably miles away.

The deer kills I've examined have been so quick and surgically deadly that if cougars wanted to kill humans, we would be their easiest prey. IMO they are the sneakiest animal in N. America, extremely difficult to see even when they are near.

very interesting reply Okanagan !!

– Last Updated: Sep-08-09 1:17 AM EST –

...... great to hear from one who has had much opportunity to study and be exposed to the cougar enviroment .

Question , do you believe that having the bear spray at the ready could actually make a difference if a cougar made it's charge at you ??

I have considered that the cougars natural prey can not mount much of a self defense other than run away .
The human can (if given the time and opportunity) ... stand a defense .

I have heard what you have said about the cougar never attacking you in all the many years you have been around them (that 21' encounter must have been more than cat curiousity though , huh ??) , and do also easily believe what you said about the odds of actually being attacked are slim to none ... but I wouldn't go into thier domain without a defense of some sort at the ready ... of course this is all suposition or just thoughts from my perspective ... we have "some" cats in our hills , but I'm rarely , if ever into the remoter areas where they are living ... at least I don't think I am , but I have found cat tracks before surprisingly .

The deer of course are extremely more adapted to detecting the cougar and wired to run ... I think we know from the start , running is not an option , so without a defense plan we lose automatically , but with a defense pre-considered we might have a reasonable chance of changing the outcome to the positive . I also think that if the cat sees we see it , and sees we are not running , then the cat might have second thoughts about attacking us because it's un-natural for the cat to not have it's prey take off in effort to escape ... so knowing we haven't that option up front might be of some advantage to us simply by design ??

The cougar has the speed , strength , teeth and claws to do it's bidding on it's side ... we have invented other options for ourselves to help equalize our natural short comings in the wild . A side arm would certainly make me feel I have an equalizer to a certain extent ... but I also feel the bear spray would be just as or even more effective given the opportunity to deploy either .

I've seen several videos/nature movie events where humans and cougars come onto close quarters with each other ... wildlife nature photographers and the like . One photographer/movie maker filmed the cougar stalking him to within spraying distance ... and finally decided it was time to turn the cat away , which was efficiently effective .

From what I have seen in such films , also included the cougars taking down it's prey , deer , goat , etc. ... the cat will get as close as possible without being detected and then make it's charge , but many times the actual charge covers much distance before first contact is possible albeit the prey is trying to outrun the cat , still the cat is making big noise and not concerning about stealth anymore from the time they begin the charge ... this would have to be the humans final opportunity to stand a defense during that charge .

While I was stationed at Fort Huachuca
Arizona, in the mid 90’s, there was an incident on base, where a Cougar charged from the bushes and snatched a childs pet goat within yards of the 4 or 5 year old child and dragged it off to eat it.

The Cougars have a natural aversion to people, and the few incidents of Cougar attacks in this country on people have usually been due to severe drought/starvation and the humans running, which imparts the Cougars chase instinct… Like Dogs chasing bicycles and cars.

Except in a few isolated incidents, simply facing the creatures and making yourself as big as possible is more than enough to discourage them from attacking… The last thing a predator wants is to tackle something larger than themselves that can maim them.

Another advantage Humans have over other animals ithe the ability for us to trotect our throats, the main target or cougars, with our arms and hands… Most animals cannot to this.


Cats are smart
bears are boorish. I sometimes carry protection while hiking/fishing, but usually against bears, or more importantly, two leggeds. If a cat was watching me it would most likely have noticed a change in my behavior to more alert and watchful. There was plenty of “beaver wood” close by which would have been an appropriate weapon to discourage all but the most starving cat. A cat in the area I was fishing could be pretty well fed on mule deer, grouse, mountain goat, and other abundant game. On all of that reasoning I figured I was at minimal risk if I was careful.

reply to pilotwingz

– Last Updated: Sep-09-09 12:54 AM EST –

"Question , do you believe that having the bear spray at the ready could actually make a difference if a cougar made it's charge at you ??"

Yes, if you saw the cat coming in time and in position to employ the spray effectively. However, the few cougar kills I've reconstructed from tracks in snow have been short rushes or single jumps from hiding. The victim never knew the cat was present until it hit, usually on the back with a bite through the back of the neck. Cats attack frontally on some human victims who have survived, usually children. But many human attacks are unseen by the victim till the cats hits them on the back, negating use of spray or other defensive weapons.

Standing tall and big helps, rather than running, as you say. That's if you see the cougar. My guess is that often if we see the cat, it is not intent on attacking or would not have let us see it. Desert and dry forest is way more open than where I've looked for cougars however, and they are easier to see there. I've read that a deterrant to tiger attacks in India is to have large eyes painted on the back of the shirt workers wear in the jungle. Cats do not like to attack large prey from the front. From my experience in how cougars approach prey, I think the eyes on the back would help deterr an attack.

One relative of mine and one close friend have each seen a cougar stalk his child. In each case the parent walked to the child while telling him in a conversational tone not to move, and in each case when the dad picked up the son, the cat relaxed its tense pose, looked at them a moment and walked away.

An elk hunter friend had a cougar come to his calling for elk. He stood to shoo it off and the cat snarled at him, crouched down and came closer. He shot it. End of story. He didn't wait to find out whether the cat was going to attack or not. Probably wise.

Eyes on the back of our shirts, bike or hockey helmet, padded neck brace with hard shell, football shoulder pads and a flak jacket and we're all set for walking in cougar country!