What to Do When a Mountain Lion Attacks

Mountain lion attacks, although uncommon, do occur each year. Also known a cougars or pumas, mountain lions are native to certain areas of the United States. When hiking or camping, it is important to know what to do if a mountain lion attacks.


The most important rule is DO NOT RUN. If you run, you are acting like food. Mountain lions are predators. Typical prey behavior is to run. There is no possibility that a human can outrun a mountain lion and trying to do so will only trigger the instinctive response to chase. Again, DO NOT RUN!

Be Big, Be Loud

When encountering a mountain lion, be big and be loud. Face the lion and appear unafraid. Keep your eyes on the lion at all times. Do not crouch and only stoop if you are quickly picking up a child, rocks or a weapon. Hold your arms above your head to appear larger. If you’re carrying a walking stick, swing it around above your head to appear even larger. Yell and scream in a loud, aggressive voice.

Back Away

Never turn your back on a mountain lion. If possible, slowly back away while keeping your eyes on the cat at all times. Creating more space between you and the cat may provide the mountain lion with the opportunity to leave.

Throw Rocks

If being big and loud is not effective, throw rocks at the mountain lion, if possible. As picking up rocks requires stooping and makes you appear smaller temporarily, do so quickly. Aim for the mountain lion’s face. If no rocks are available, throw whatever is at hand unless the item would make a better weapon in the event of an actual attack.

Fight Back

If the cat attacks, FIGHT BACK! If you have an item that can be used as a weapon, use it now. Even a camera or water bottle can add power to your punch. If no weapon is available, use just your fists. Aim for the face, especially the eyes. Try to gouge your thumbs or fingers into the mountain lion’s eyes.

Small Children

Due to their size and tendency to run, small children are especially vulnerable to mountain lion attacks. If a mountain lion is encountered when a small child is present, pick the child up. If there are two or more children, have them cluster around you, preferably to the sides to aid in the appearance of being larger. Only if they can do so in a mean voice, have them yell and scream, as well. They may also be able to more easily grab rocks for you to throw while you remain tall and menacing. Make sure they stay right beside you, especially if bending to pick up rocks.


Preventing a mountain lion attack is preferable to dealing with a cat in the wild. There are several tactics that will increase the chance that you will never encounter a mountain lion. When hiking or camping, follow these tips to reduce the likelihood that a mountain lion will be seen.

Safety in Numbers

There is safety in numbers. When hiking, travel in pairs or a group, if possible. When camping with a group, cluster the tents within a central area rather than spreading them out.

Keep Children Close

While on the trail, keep children close. Do not allow them to run ahead or lag behind. If necessary, go slow or wait while they rest, or choose to carry them. In camp, have them play in the area where all the action is rather than wandering off on their own to explore.

Take Along a Dog

A dog is said to be man’s best friend and this hold true in mountain lion territory. As a mountain lion may perceive a small dog as prey despite the barking, a large or medium sized dog is best. Keep your dog close by. Do not let it chase after the mountain lion.

After an Encounter

Always report an attack or unusual encounter to the proper authorities. As mountain lions age, it is often more difficult for them to catch and kill their usual prey. Mountain lions that begin stalking humans may require removal from the area.