Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?

Mountain Lion

Fatal mountain lion “Puma Concolor” attacks are extremely rare. In fact, there are only 20 records of fatal mountain lion attacks on humans in all of North America in the last 100 years. Don’t let that lull you into a complete sense of false security, though. There have been many more mountain lion attacks over the years that didn’t result in a fatality. Also, mountain lions really are powerful and dangerous predators.

An adult mountain lion consumes around ten pounds of meat per day. To do this, they need to kill a large ungulate such as a deer once a week. Deer make up the biggest part of a mountain lion’s diet, but they will also kill elk, moose, or bighorn sheep, depending on what prey is available. They’re opportunistic hunters, though, and will take domestic animals and smaller prey if it’s available. Lucky for them, they have a formidable arsenal of tools to help them get the job done.

How dangerous are mountain lions?

  • How big are mountain lions?”, you might ask. The largest adult male mountain lions are over 8ft long from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail and weigh up to 220 lbs. Females on average are around 13% smaller than males.
  • An adult mountain lion can run up to 50 miles per hour, leap up to 18 feet laterally and 40 feet horizontally.
  • Mountain lions have a bite force of 725 psi
  • Mountain lions use their stealth to attack from behind most of the time. They leap on the backs of their prey and clamp down on either their spinal cord or wind pipe with their powerful jaws.
  • Mountain lions are so good at camouflaging their presence that they’re bona fide ghosts in their environment, especially in good cover. Most of the time they use their skills to avoid any contact whatsoever with humans. However, on rare occasions a mountain lion chooses not to avoid a person but to treat them as a prey animal instead.

Do Mountain Lions Attack People?

The answer to that question is yes but not very often. Mountain lions do occasionally attack people. In the United States, there are just over two mountain lion attacks on people on an average year. See

  • Lack of food is one of the main reasons why mountain lions attack humans. If the cat has an injury or an impairment that prevents it from killing other game, it’s more likely to look at a person as potential prey.
  • Like many other animals, male mountain lions engage in fights for territory. A percentage of cougar attacks on humans are perpetrated by hungry semi juvenile animals that have been kicked out of territories with a more abundant food supply and are consequently searching for prey.
  • Scientists have found that cougars that were orphaned at a young age are more likely to attack humans .They may attack humans without knowing that this can be dangerous for them.
  • Mountain lions are more also likely to attack people who are running or cycling. Moving at high speed triggers the chase instincts in many predators, and these ghost cats are no different.
  • Mountain lions also have a greater tenancy to pick on children under the age of 13 and pets.

Mountain Lion Attack Statistics

According to a study done by the “Wilderness Medical Society,” in the period of 60 years between 1950 and May of 2010, there were 141 documented cases of mountain lions attacking people. Of which, 15 of those attacks caused a fatality. That has been an average of 2.35 attacks per year. In turn, this resulted in .25 deaths each year.

The likelihood that a mountain lion’ll ever harm you is statistically very small. In fact, the probability that a mountain lion’ll kill you is much smaller than the chance you’ll be killed by one of the following other natural causes.

  • In the United States 7,000–8,000 venomous snake bites annually. Breaking that down further, approximately 5 people die from snakebite in the U.S each year. Source
  • On average, 26 people are killed each year in the United States by lightning strikes. Source
  • In an average year, 62 people in the U.S die from Hornet, wasp, and bee stings. Source
  • 4000 people die by drowning each year in the United States. Source

As you can see, there are other things in the great outdoors that are more likely to kill you than a mountain lion. However, that doesn’t change the fact that these animals are deadly predators and should be respected as such.

Staying safer

If you are looking to stay safe while in mountain lion territory, you should avoid being out alone between dusk and dawn because that’s when mountain lions are most active. You should also avoid hiking, biking, or jogging alone, stay alert on trails, and keep a close eye on your children and pets if you’re out as a family. If you can’t leave them home, keep dogs on a leash. Off-leash dogs on trails are at a greater risk of falling prey to a mountain lion.

Pets and children are the most vulnerable to mountain lion attacks, and adults did not accompany the majority of documented cases of child victims.

Don’t run away

Also, according to a Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, people who try to flee when they encounter a mountain lion are at a greater risk of sustaining serious injuries and even death. Running away triggers a lion’s instinct to chase. A whopping 28% of people who chose to run away sustained fatal injuries, while 23% of those who showed readiness to challenge the lion were able to survive the attack. About 39% of people who moved from the scene slowly when they noticed a mountain lion stalking them escaped without any injuries.

What To Do If a Mountain Lion Is Stalking You

What can you do if you realize that a mountain lion is stalking you? Here are a few tips on how to handle such a situation:

  • Never approach or corner the mountain lion or any other form of large wildlife for that matter. Also make sure it has a route to retreat from you.
  • Hold your ground when the cat is coming towards you and back away slowly when it pauses its approach
  • Stay calm. Panic is your enemy in a survival situation and that is what this is.
  • Never run away. Fleeing can trigger chase and kill responses. Also, avoid turning your back. Maintain eye contact with the cat.
  • Open your jacket if you’re wearing one to appear larger. and wave your arms slowly to give yourself the appearance of having as much size as possible as you back away slowly You can also throw rocks, sticks, or other objects at the lion.
  • If you’re walking with a pet or a small child, pick them up and hold them in your arms.
  • Stand upright. Avoid bending over or crouching down as much as possible as this puts you in the vulnerable position of appearing like a small, four-legged animal that can easily become prey.
  • Make noise and be vocal. Speak firmly in a loud voice but avoid a high-pitched tone or screaming.

What To Do If A Mountain Lion Attacks You

It’s crucial to learn how to behave during an encounter with a mountain lion. If the lion starts to become aggressive, you need to fight back. Mountain lions are driven away by prey that fights back sometimes. Statistics show that many people have successfully fought back with their bare hands, sticks, rocks, garden tools, or any other weapon within reach. You already have a ready-made weapon if you’re using a walking stick. Target sensitive areas such as the eyes and nose and hit as hard as you can! You should also try to remain standing if possible. You’ll lose some of your advantage on the ground. If you get knocked down, try as hard as possible to protect your neck and head as you continue to fight back.

Some hikers carry bear spray on their belts in lion country. The odds are infinitesimal that you’ll ever need to use it, but if it is needed, it could be a lifesaver.

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