How to handle the big cats

  • Illustration of mountain lion

    Michelle Mara

It's a typical, sunny Western day, and you're outside gardening when you notice a big cat eyeing you intently and slinking slowly towards you. What should you do?

Don't act defenseless, says Jon Rachael, regional wildlife manager in Idaho. "Almost invariably, mountain lions attack for food, so if you play dead, that only makes the snack go down that much quicker," says Rachael, who contributed to a new report by Idaho Fish and Game on handling mountain lion encounters.

Fish and Game wrote Encounters of the Feline Kind: Mountain Lions and You, because, like most Western states, Idaho is experiencing an increase in mountain lion numbers that most likely relates to growing deer populations. Simultaneously, more people are living and recreating in lion habitat. Fatal encounters are extremely rare, but as the cats meet more people, they may become less fearful of humans. A desperate cat, says Rachael, might contemplate a person as prey.

In case of an encounter, the report says, act large and aggressive. Fight back if attacked, and don't run away, because running may trigger the instinct to chase, the way moving a string will lead a house cat to pounce. The two-page report also offers tips for protecting pets and livestock and creating landscapes and yards that discourage mountain lion attacks.

For a free copy, contact Idaho Fish and Game at 208/334-3700 or download it at;/lions/-mlions.htm.
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