Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kinnelon Critter File: If You Meet A Mountain Lion

eyes of a mountain lion originally uploaded
by Shoeless Joe/64.
Before you say "phooey! a mountain lion?" please read on.

According to the front page of the 4/1/09 issue of The Smoke Rise Club News:

"There is also this cat. Last fall over a period of several weeks Security received numerous calls from residents about a "big" cat they had seen on their property. While we felt these calls were credible we were unable to locate this animal and could find no proof that would satisfy the New Jersey wildlife officials of its existence. The reports of "big" cat sightings soon stopped. That was last fall and now with the coming of spring one of our Security patrol officers has seen the animal on Pepperidge Tree Terrace. This is not a domestic cat or a bobcat. This is a brown female cat with a long tail probably weighing close to 100 pounds."

Now, perhaps you read our previous post The Kinnelon Critter File: Mountain Lion or Large Bobcat. We weren't aware of it at the time, but it sure sounds like our pawprints belong to the critter that other residents saw. Which means that it's highly likely that there's a large feline about.

I can deal with it. Really.

Realistically, though, I know I can't hide out in my house for the rest of my life. So, how do I prepare for the worst case scenario? How do I react should I come face to face with this large feline? Is there a protocol as there is with bears?

Here's what I've learned:

From the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

+ Do not approach the animal. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

+ Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly.

+ Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase.

+ Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. [Note: for a bear, do NOT make eye contact.]

+ Appear larger. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you are wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the lion that you are not easy prey and that you may be a danger to it.

+ Maintain eye contact and slowly back away toward a building, vehicle, or busy area.

+ Protect small children so they won’t panic and run. [Note: children are vulnerable.]

+ Fight back if attacked. Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, their bare hands, and even mountain bikes. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the animal.

According to Mammoth Lakes, CA City Concierge, avoid being out and about at dawn and dusk when mountain lions tend to hunt. In addition,

Recognize threatening mountain lion behavior. There are a few cues that may help you gauge the risk of attack.

+ If a mountain lion is more than 50 yards away, changes positions, directs attention toward people, and exhibits following behavior, it may be only curious. This circumstance represents only a slight risk for adults, but a more serious risk to unaccompanied children. At this point, you should move away, while keeping the animal in your peripheral vision. Also, take out a deterrent device or look for rocks, sticks, or something to use as a weapon- just in case.

+ For distances of less than 50 yards, where the animal is staring intensely and hiding, it may be assessing the chances of a successful attack. If intense staring and hiding continue, accompanied by crouching and creeping, the risk of attack may be substantial.

How Not to Get Eaten by a Mountain Lion offers intriguing advice for bicycle riders, which - I would think - works for hikers. No?

This is in no way meant to alarm. Simply to prepare.

Except for the eyes, the steps to take are similar to those you take if you encounter a bear. I keep a pocketful of New Year's noise makers readily available in my backpack when we hike. I never hike alone. I also sing really badly and loudly when I put the trash out at night. That should deter any proper Kinnelon critter.

If you know of other steps to take, please let me know so I can include them here.

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