Mountain Lion?!?!? What to do?
I don't often post, so pardon my randomness!
Originally I'm from outside of D.C., where the largest predators I've dealt with are cute red foxes. Last summer, my husband and I moved to Los Angeles, where I promptly found an amazing horse to lease (why won't they sell her!?!) near the Los Angeles National Forest.
Though I knew there was the possibility of Mountain Lions, I figured/hoped I would not run into one.
So, recently, when Playday (the Wonder Horse) and I were trotting along the trail home and I spotted a large animal standing in the middle of the trail ahead I thought it was the Coyote of Unusual Size we had met earlier. Then I noticed it moved like a cat. 'Bobcat' I thought hopefully. I'd heard those sometimes made an appearance.
Then, it turned sideways. Long, twitching tail. Very Big. I almost had a heart attack. I didn't know what to do! Playday didn't seem to realize the danger...we were on the part of the trail where we often canter and she wanted to get to stepping. So. I ended up following the lion.
It would walk, we would walk. It would stop and contemplate us. I would debate the merits of running away or running toward it while trying to remember what Laura Ingalls Wilder's dad did when encountering panthers on horseback. Playday would jig, desperate for a nice canter.
We did this for quite a while. Until finally it veered off up the mountain. I waited a minute...then scurried past. And saw it looking at us as it rubbed its face happily on a tree like a house cat would your leg.
So. My question is this:
I now know it was wise not to run away....but what do I do? Some have said to yell, some have said to make myself big, some have said to turn around and walk calmly away. I've also heard I should have just veered off and trailblazed myself to to a nearby creek, then ridden down said creek until it crossed over the trail I had originally been on.
I am not likely to do the last suggestion. Way too much Poison Oak and potential for snakes. Unless that's really the safest?
Anyway, I'm hoping those with way more scary-exciting-yet-heart-stopping predator encounter experience can advise.
OH! Also, lately there's been a lot of bear sightings on the news, and I've heard it's possible I may run into those as well....what do I do then?
Most wild animals are no threat and afraid of you, just making a lot of noise will scare those off. Sounds like you ran into a cat that's not very afraid of people and that's not a good thing. Once predators lose fear of man, man becomes food. There are several non lethal things you can carry for bears and cats but unfortunately if not used right they can pretty darn dangerous for riders but then firing a gun from the back of an untrained horse is pretty darn dangerous too.
I would report your encounter to game and wildlife management. If the cat is a problem they can safely remove it. If it was me, I would be packing for protection too.
I'm less worried about meeting mtn lion when horseback than when on foot. On horseback, and I have seen them, I roar (vocally) and charge my horse at them a few steps. Stop. And they have always left.
On foot, I frequently look back. Lion come up from behind. I also always carry a handgun for several reasons. One being in case of lion attack. Another being in case I fall off and land in some rocky, hidden draw and need help I would be able to signal.
Once, when my youngest was 8 years old, she went running up the hill in our back yard. I stood at the back door, smiling, enjoying seeing her so happy. A movement caught my eye further up the hill. She was running right toward a mtn. lion! I had taught my children that if I yelled to go to the house or car, to do it, and I'd explain later. I yelled for her to go to the house, grabbed a baseball bat that was near the door, and went running, waving my arms and bellowing up the hill. The mountain lion, crouched lower, then turned while staying almost flat in the brush, and ran off.
If I hadn't been watching her...
First of all. Congratulation on actually seeing one in the wild. Very few people have this priviledge.
Cougars, like most cats are curious and they will often sneek up on things they are not sure about and just watch. I guess trying to decide if you could be a meal. Running away definitely spurs the chase instinct. So don't run.
Usually becoming as big as possible. making loud noise. firing a gun, compressed air horns etc will send them running. They are not brave animals when dealing with things they are unsure of.
If your cat was in no hurry to leave, I probably would have tried to choose an alternate route that did not follow the cat.
Bears are another matter. Especially the big bears. Most black bears will flee. But the grizzlies are much closer to the top of the food chain and have little fear. Again running will stir the chase instinct. So you are better off to stay put.
Always make sure you are giving the wild animal an outlet. Don't block off it's escape route. Whether it's a rattle snake, cougar or bear, They will usually just leave rather than fight.
Subbing! I'd like to know this, too. :wink:
Since the OP is in California, I'll point out that packing a gun isn't a very viable option. Getting a concealed permit is very difficult in many parts of California, and open carry of a handgun - even if it is unloaded - is illegal in many parts as well.
CaliforniaOpenCarry.org - FAQ
I think the OP did about as well as a person could do, under the circumstances. I would report it, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for someone to do anything.
I might consider carrying pepper spray. It would be helpful against the two legged wild animals as well.
Is there a way you can desensatize the horse to an airhorn? That'll be loud enough to scare an unwanted animal away. Especially if you cant carry a gun to protect yourself.
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The best thing to do is prevent an encounter by making sure they hear you coming. We have hundreds of black bear around us and have yet to see one while riding or hiking. Yell "HEY BEAR!!!" every mile and wear a bear bell.
"sneaking" up on one is the worst thing and Heaven forbid the bear or lion has cubs with her.
We carry guns for last minuet protection, only to be used if we are physically attacked. If charged we would stand our ground and retreat slowely, making ourselves loud and as big looking as possible. Spray wouldn't be a bad idea for you, but I'd only use it after you've practiced handling it, and probably only if you've been thrown. A blinded scared horse is a dangerous useless one in that kind of situation!
I've been charged on foot by moose and bear when I worked in Yellowstone, so it does work. On horse not yet, but again we talk and yell and do everything possible to prevent an encounter.
Kudos to your mare!! And you for keeping your cool.
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One more thing... Most prey animals will do the same as you did in the wild. If they find or sense a predator they follow it and track it from afar, making sure it's in front of them, not behind. The Lion knew his gig was up so he's more likely to keep doing his thing and not mess with you.
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