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Mountain Lion Language

How to read it, what does it mean and how to react:

1. Activity: Far away and moving away

2. Activity: Less than 100 yards away, various positions and movements, attention directed away from people.

  • Meaning: Indifference
  • Human Risk: Slight, provided human response is appropriate
  • Appropriate Response: Avoid rapid movements, avoid running, avoid loud, excitable talk. Stay in groups, keep children with adults. Observe lion closely.
Picture of indifferent mountain lion

3. Activity: Lion less than 50 yards away, various body positions, ears may be changing positions, intent towards people; following behavior.

  • Meaning: Curiosity
  • Human Risk: Slight for adults, given proper response; serious for unaccompanied children.
  • Appropriate Response: Hold small children, keep older children close to an adult.DO NOT turn back on the lion, assume a standing position-above lion if possible. Look for weapons, display weapons, use an aggressive posture.Watch lion at all times!!! If lion sits, looks away, or grooms itself, this is not a predatory situation. Move away slowly.
Picture of curious mountain lion
4. Activity: Closer than 50 yards, hiding, intense staring at humans.
  • Meaning: Assessing success of attack.
  • Human Risk: Substantial
  • Appropriate Response: All the actions discussed already, plus place older children behind adults. If a safer location or one above the lion is available, go there. DO NOT RUN! Raise hands and other objects, such a jackets, above heads as to present an image of bulk as high as possible. Prepare to defend yourself.
Picture of mountain lion assessing success of attack
5. Activity: Intense staring and hiding, coupled with crouching and/or creeping towards humans.
  • Meaning: Moving to attack position..
  • Human Risk: Serious if within 200 yds.
  • Appropriate Response: Take all actions previously discussed. If possible, move slowly
    to place large objects, such as trees and boulders between yourself and the lion, but do not lose sight of the animal. Smile (show your teeth). Make menacing sounds; throw things if lion is close enough to hit.
Picture of mountain lion moving to attack position
6. Activity: Crouching, intense staring at humans, tail twitching; ears erect; body low to the ground- head may be up.
  • Meaning: Pre-attack, awaiting opportunity.
  • Human Risk: Grave
  • Appropriate Response: Do everything already discussed and use whatever weapons you have. If you have lethal weapons, take careful aim and use them now. Pepper spray may be effective if lion is close enough. If you have rocks or other items that can be thrown, do so.
Picture of mountain lion waiting for opportunity to attack
7. Activity: Ears turned so the "fur" side is forward; body and head low to the ground, tail twitching, rear legs may be "pumping" or "treading" gently up and down.
  • Meaning: Imminent attack, lion is ready to leap.
  • Human Risk: Extreme!
  • Appropriate Response: Prepare to defend yourself in close combat. FIGHT BACK. Make menacing noises. The attack may happen within seconds. If you have any chances of averting it, it is by acting aggressively toward the lion. If the distance is too great to use a stick, run rapidly toward the lion until you can put the stick in its face and eyes. If you lack a stick, run towards the lion with arms high, making loud noises. Stop before you are within striking distance of its paws. Rapid movements toward the lion, especially from above it, may still deter an attack. Avoid positions below the lion, DO NOT turn your back on it or run!!
Picture of mountain lion that is ready to leap