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Encounter a Cougar while hiking ...what would your scouts do?

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I prefer to be on a horse and have a couple of large working dogs with me.

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Back up slowly while looking large and prepare to throw rocks.    I might well have Bear Spray. 

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9 hours ago, hiker67 said:

Tips from the Mountain Lion Foundation:

https://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectstaysafe.php

Interesting reading, thanks.

"In one case a 9-year-old boy in El Dorado County frightened a mountain lion away by playing his trumpet. When asked why he did that he said, "...my parents taught me to make noise, look big, do not run..." "

Regarding making LOUD noises, could cellphone have been used to playback loud sounds - gunshots, German Shepherds barking,...?

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@hiker67 gave us an excellent reference that is quite similar to what I've read at National Park trailheads.

Loud noises convey two things:

  • I'm not on the hunt.
  • I'm strong and can fight but don't want to.

I'm not entirely sure that a cellphone is your friend here. My dog, for example, largely ignores sounds from electronics. But if I so much as stretch a leg, he alerts. Cat brains are visual, so they are likely to rank sounds based on where they infer the source. Something coming from you person gets more attention than something coming from a box. (A box with gunpowder might be the exception.)

@Cambridgeskip, the ride out to the trailhead is still far more perilous than the beasts we find therein. I'm under the impression that our scouts take longer trips than yours do for most weekend campouts. The bulk of our prayers go toward that time on the highway.

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In this situation there were only 3 things the cat was thinking about. Are my babies food, are you food and am I food? I didn't see the babies but if they were there then that was the cat's first thought, kill was the second, but we don't know. A cat going after a person in the middle of the day is really unusual. The other options are who is the food here? Rule one, don't look at the cat. That makes the cat feel like food and that is a problem. But this guy was just trying to figure things out. Rule two is don't run away. While backing up and looking at the cat this guy was projecting that he's an all you can eat buffet. If there were babies near by then this is kind of a no win situation. So, at least for a bit, backing up was okay. But he was clearly afraid, and I can't blame him, but he kept backing up hoping the cat would lose interest. The cat kept a constant distance nearly the whole time. When the guy would crouch down trying to get a rock the cat did a weird thing waving his claws around. I think the cat might have been trying to convince this guy to turn and run. He would have been an easy kill if he had. At that point, facing the cat was likely the right thing to do. Rule 3 is look big. This guy knew that. He kept saying that between the beeped out comments. Rule 4 is, if attacked, fight back. Cats know they can't afford to get hurt in a fight, and that's why it never got too close. As soon as the guy could pick up a rock and throw it the cat changed from you're food to I'm food and took off. The cat realized this guy was not going to go down without a fight.

Other than going out by himself I think he did a good job. As for the original question, if there had been a group of scouts then I think the cat would not have gotten close. But all the rules still apply. Don't run. Don't challenge or look at the cat. Look big. Fight if attacked. It sure gives me a better appreciation for having a hiking pole. I went backpacking with a guy that had a .44 with him in a holster.  Nothing was going to bother him.

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1 hour ago, MattR said:

In this situation there were only 3 things the cat was thinking about. Are my babies food, are you food and am I food? I didn't see the babies but if they were there then that was the cat's first thought, kill was the second, but we don't know. A cat going after a person in the middle of the day is really unusual. The other options are who is the food here? Rule one, don't look at the cat. That makes the cat feel like food and that is a problem. But this guy was just trying to figure things out. Rule two is don't run away. While backing up and looking at the cat this guy was projecting that he's an all you can eat buffet. If there were babies near by then this is kind of a no win situation. So, at least for a bit, backing up was okay. But he was clearly afraid, and I can't blame him, but he kept backing up hoping the cat would lose interest. The cat kept a constant distance nearly the whole time. When the guy would crouch down trying to get a rock the cat did a weird thing waving his claws around. I think the cat might have been trying to convince this guy to turn and run. He would have been an easy kill if he had. At that point, facing the cat was likely the right thing to do. Rule 3 is look big. This guy knew that. He kept saying that between the beeped out comments. Rule 4 is, if attacked, fight back. Cats know they can't afford to get hurt in a fight, and that's why it never got too close. As soon as the guy could pick up a rock and throw it the cat changed from you're food to I'm food and took off. The cat realized this guy was not going to go down without a fight.

Other than going out by himself I think he did a good job. As for the original question, if there had been a group of scouts then I think the cat would not have gotten close. But all the rules still apply. Don't run. Don't challenge or look at the cat. Look big. Fight if attacked. It sure gives me a better appreciation for having a hiking pole. I went backpacking with a guy that had a .44 with him in a holster.  Nothing was going to bother him.

The guy was right to stare the cat in the face and back up. You should never turn and run. You should never break eye contact. You should never bend down and make yourself smaller unless you've really got some distance. Once they've decided you are a target you have the unfortunate task of trying to both de-escalate the situation while at the same time also convincing them you are too big, bad and tough to tangle with. What he should have done was put the phone away. He was obviously aiming the camera at that supremely ticked off cat -- otherwise we wouldn't have had the great footage, which I am thankful for from an instructional standpoint, but critical of from a survival standpoint. Both hands should have been wide and high over his head. If he had put the phone away, he also would have had plenty of opportunity to grab and shake any branches at arm height while walking backwards. No animal likes that because they don't know whether that's you doing it or another large predator that they now also have to contend with. It's good to use a calming, conversational voice while the animal is thinking and deciding whether you are a threat. Once it is actively pursuing or charging, however, you need to be louder and more forceful than this guy.

Last comment: This video did not include this information but one of the original news reports noted that he saw the cat's kittens crossing the trail and stopped to take some video. So the last bit of advice is if you see any kind of wild young, don't stop to take pictures because they are cute but leave or else Momma may get upset as she did in this incident and she will not be cute. People today seem to think wild animals are stuffed animals and are there to enhance their selfies. 

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This reminded me of my foolish young scout days.  I was in a troop as an 11 or 12 years old and we were camped for a few days, summer of 1955 or maybe 56, in the mountains near Slide Lake which is in the Pomona area of So Cal.  Anyway, two of us were hiking and we ran across deer tracks and started following them.  I was wearing my proud acquisition from selling Christmas cards, a belt ax with sheath knife, and I had a hiking stick as did my buddy.  We noticed the tracks were farther apart and wondered if we were close and scared it.  Then we realized there was another set of tracks now, and they were not deer, but large cat imprints.  That was when we decided tracking the deer was not a good idea.  We took my hatchet and knife and put points on our hiking sticks and then we turned around and headed towards camp, constantly jumping at noises and peering into the scrub and mancinita.  We never saw the cat or the deer, but when we turned around, the deer was obviously moving much faster, as were we in the opposite direction.  Funny how I had almost forgotten that.  As an adult, we were camped on the Sespe at Bear Creek.  It was early summer or late spring, and we had not pitched tents.  I got up the next morning and wandered away to water a tree, and on the way back into the site, I saw fresh tracks in the damp sand of the river bar just a few dozen feet from where we were sleeping.  The tracks came within about ten feet of one scout, who was still asleep.  When he woke up, he did not see the tracks, but when I pointed them out to him, the look was pretty funny.  Wish I had had some plater, as the tracks were deep and fresh.  Would have been great to capture them.  

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@yknot and @MattR I had seen a version that wasn’t bleeped out and opened with the cubs in frame for the first few (fleeting) seconds. So, yeah, this was a momma trying to clear a perimeter.

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21 minutes ago, qwazse said:

@yknot and @MattR I had seen a version that wasn’t bleeped out and opened with the cubs in frame for the first few (fleeting) seconds. So, yeah, this was a momma trying to clear a perimeter.

Momma was not happy lol. Back in the days when parents were less concerned about childhood death and dismemberment, I worked for a guy who had exotic animals for the movies, including big cats. I definitely learned some interesting things that are not in G2SS.  

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8 hours ago, yknot said:

Momma was not happy lol. Back in the days when parents were less concerned about childhood death and dismemberment, I worked for a guy who had exotic animals for the movies, including big cats. I definitely learned some interesting things that are not in G2SS.  

At a church camp, they introduced us to the guy who trained the Mercury Cougar mascot. He brought the big cat out of his cage and walked him around. I never thought to ask the guy for a job. You don’t think of a lot of things when you see a guy with a mountain lion on a leash!

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27 minutes ago, qwazse said:

At a church camp, they introduced us to the guy who trained the Mercury Cougar mascot. He brought the big cat out of his cage and walked him around. I never thought to ask the guy for a job. You don’t think of a lot of things when you see a guy with a mountain lion on a leash!

I remember that cat. I would have loved to have met him. He had a fabulous snarl. 

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9 hours ago, yknot said:

I remember that cat. I would have loved to have met him. He had a fabulous snarl. 

IRL the cat didn't make much noise at all ... like the one on this video. We were in a circle and it walked to the end of its leash and looked at us from 3 feet away, moving on to the next kid in the circle. I'm not sure if the made-for-TV sound was just a matter waiting for the right moment with mics or if it was all sound-effects. (Things you don't think to ask when a cougar on a leash is walking by.)

In college, we heard it behind Pitt's touchdown horn. (Frequently enough when Dan Marino was QB.) This one sounded a little more like someone waited at a zoo and spent lots of tape until they got a good sample. At least I like to think that the university athletic department would get source material instead of plagiarizing a sound sample!

 

Edited by qwazse

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1 hour ago, qwazse said:

IRL the cat didn't make much noise at all ... like the one on this video. We were in a circle and it walked to the end of its leash and looked at us from 3 feet away, moving on to the next kid in the circle. I'm not sure if the made-for-TV sound was just a matter waiting for the right moment with mics or if it was all sound-effects. (Things you don't think to ask when a cougar on a leash is walking by.)

In college, we heard it behind Pitt's touchdown horn. (Frequently enough when Dan Marino was QB.) This one sounded a little more like someone waited at a zoo and spent lots of tape until they got a good sample. At least I like to think that the university athletic department would get source material instead of plagiarizing a sound sample!

 

The old animal trainer I worked for trained the MGM lions and he taught them to snarl and roar on cue. Here's a fun commercial with the Mercury kitty. 

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