Cougars, or mountain lions, exist in Big Sur but are rarely spotted. They are elusive and quiet. Although strong and powerful, rarely are they considered a threat to people. If you do spot a mountain lion, follow the guidelines below.
When Mountain Lions Meet People
Generally, lions are calm, quiet and elusive. They tend to live in remote primitive country. Lions are most commonly found in areas with plentiful deer and adequate cover. Such conditions exist in mountain subdivisions, urban fringes, and open spaces. Consequently, the number of mountain lion/human interactions has increased. This increase is likely due to a variety of reasons; more people moving into lion habitat, increase in deer populations and density, presumed increase in lion numbers and expanded range, more people using hiking and running trails in lion habitat and a greater awareness of the presence of lions.
People rarely get more than a brief glimpse of a mountain lion in the wild. Lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than two dozen fatalities in North America in more than 100 years. Most of the attacks were by young lions, perhaps forced out to hunt on their own and not yet living in established areas. Young lions may key in on easy prey, like pets and small children.
No studies have been done to determine what to do if you meet a lion. But based on observations by people who have come upon lions, some patterns of behavior and response are beginning to emerge. With this in mind, the following suggestions may be helpful. Remember: Every situation is different with respect to the mountain lion, the terrain, the people and their activity.
What to do if you Meet a Lion
When you walk or hike in mountain lion country; go in groups and make plenty of noise to reduce your chances of surprising a lion. A sturdy walking stick is a good idea; it can be used to ward off a lion. Make sure children remain close to you and in your sight at all times.
Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most lions avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly yet firmly to it. Move slowly.
Stop. Back away slowly only if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase and attack. Face the lion and stand upright.
Do All You Can To Appear Larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you're wearing one. If you have small children with you, protect them by picking them up so they won't panic and run.
If the lion behaves aggressively, throw stones, branches or whatever you can get your hands on without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly. What you want to do is convince the lion you are not prey and that you may in fact be a danger to the lion.
Fight Back if a lion attacks you. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. People have fought back with rocks, sticks caps, or jackets, garden tools and their bare-hands successfully. Remain standing or try to get back up!
Consider yourself lucky if you do get to see a mountain lion during your visit to Big Sur. Many of the old-timers here still haven't seen one.
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