HELENA — With recent sightings of mountain lions in several Montana communities - including last week in Great Falls - what should you do if you actually encounter one of these generally elusive cats?
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks offers the following advice:
- Do not approach a lion. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Do not run from a lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so that they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.
- Do not crouch down or bend over. A human standing up is just not the right shape for a lion's prey. Conversely, a person squatting or bending over resembles a four-legged prey animal. In mountain lion country, avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.
- Do all you can to appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.
- Fight back if attacked. A hiker in southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal
- Bear Spray. Carry bear spray with you while hiking. Although it is called “bear” spray, the pepper powder will work on just about any wild or domestic animal that attacks.
People should report any possible mountain lion sightings immediately to law enforcement or to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
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