Mark Johnson joins Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Area Wildlife Manager Jason Duestch to discuss mountain lion attacks on humans. Jason explains what we’ve learned from past attacks and what we can do to reduce the chance of an attack. As more people move into the lion’s habitat, the likelihood of lion encounters increases. We can live with these incredibly efficient predators if we respect mountain lions and their habitat.
- Mountain Lions in Colorado Episode 1: Biology & Historical Perspective
- Mountain Lions in Colorado Episode 2: Mountain Lion Habitat & Human Expansion
- Mountain Lions in Colorado Episode 3: Mountain Lion Hunting
Mountain lions are generally calm, quiet, and elusive. They tend to live in remote, primitive country with plentiful deer and adequate cover. Such conditions exist in mountain subdivisions, urban fringes, and open spaces. Recently, the number of mountain lion/human interactions has increased. This increase is likely due to a variety of reasons, such as:
- 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
- A greater awareness of the presence of lions.
If You Encounter a Mountain Lion
People rarely get more than a brief glimpse of a mountain lion in the wild. Lion attacks on people are rare, with fewer than a 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. However, 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 lion, the terrain, the people, and their activity.
- Go in groups when you walk or hike in mountain lion country, 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 are close to you and within your sight at all times. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
- Do not approach a lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
- Stay calm when you come upon a lion. Talk calmly and firmly to it. Move slowly.
- Stop or back away slowly, if you can do it 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!
Check out the “Mountain Lion Safety” video at the top of page for more tips on dealing with lion encounters.
If You Live in Lion Country
To reduce the risk of problems with mountain lions on or near your property, we urge you to follow these simple precautions:
- Make lots of noise if you come and go during the times mountain lions are most active: dusk to dawn.
- Install outside lighting. Light areas where you walk so you could see a lion if one were present.
- Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside before dusk and not outside before dawn. Talk with children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
- Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding places for lions, especially around children’s play areas. Make it difficult for lions to approach unseen.
- Planting non-native shrubs and plants that deer often prefer to eat encourages wildlife to come onto your property. Predators follow prey. Don’t feed any wildlife!
- Keep your pet under control. Roaming pets are easy prey and can attract lions. Bring pets in at night. If you leave your pet outside, keep it in a kennel with a secure top. Don’t feed pets outside; this can attract raccoons and other animals that are eaten by lions. Store all garbage securely.
- Place livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close doors to all outbuildings since inquisitive lions may go inside for a look.
- Encourage your neighbors to follow these simple precautions. Prevention is far better than a possible lion confrontation.
Narrated by Mark Johnson. Mark Johnson, an avid hunter, fly-fisherman, and rancher, is also the host for the Colorado Outdoors Podcast.
Images and videos used in the series were collected from across the state, from both residents and within the agency. David Neils of Wild Nature Media (wildnaturemedia.com) supplied many of the fascinating videos in episode one showing mountain lions in their wild state.