It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: you’re enjoying a nice, quiet hike through the woods when suddenly, you’re face to face with a mountain lion that could rip you to shreds. What do you do?
You become frozen to the spot and all your knowledge of forest safety flies out the window.
You feel like running, but you know deep down that that would only make matters worse.
Then, you remember you have something to defend yourself with. But it’s bear spray.
Surely that’s better than nothing. But does bear spray work on mountain lions after all?
Does Bear Spray Work on Mountain Lions?
Yes, bear spray works mountain lions! It works on any animal that has eyes and lungs.
They won’t like their sensitive eyes and noses bothered in any way and will almost always retreat quickly when the spray is inhaled.
Bear spray will protect you from a variety of animals including mountain lions, cougars, wolfs, coyotes, wild pigs, elk, moose, and even dogs.
Using Bear Spray Against a Mountain Lion
You don’t want to find yourself only armed with bear spray when face to face with a cougar and only then begin to question, “Does bear spray work on cougars?”
Sometimes, people don’t even think about what they would do if they encountered a cougar in the wilderness until it actually happens and time is of the essence, so you don’t want to hesitate.
If you find yourself in the precarious situation of having to fend off a mountain lion with bear spray, the key is to remain calm and follow the below steps.
Grab Your Canister
Don’t panic. Remain calm and grab your bear spray canister slowly to prevent any sudden movements or noise that might aggravate the mountain lion into attacking quicker.
Hold the Can Firmly
Nerves might get the best of you to the point where you might have a trembling grip on the bear spray.
But unless you want to end up covered in bear spray yourself, try to be sure of your actions and hold the can firmly and steadily as you proceed.
Remove the Safety Clip
To remove the safety clip on bear spray, put your thumb on the curved side of the clip and pull it back towards you.
The clip should dislodge, allowing you to spray the canister freely.
Aim Slightly Downward
If the mountain lion is attacking you, aim directly for their eyes.
If they are not attacking you, the goal is to create a cloud of spray that they have to walk through, so aim downward a few feet ahead of them.
Spray for 1 to 2 Seconds
Remember that you only have 4-9 seconds total of bear spray discharge, so try to use it sparingly and spray for only 1 to 2 seconds at a time.
Read: How Fast Can A Bear Run?
Do Mountain Lions Attack Humans?
The short answer is: yes, mountains can attack humans. However, it’s a pretty rare occurrence.
How Often Do Attacks Occur?
Cases of mountain lions attacking humans are just not that common.
Since 1986, there have been only 19 verified mountain lion attacks with just 3 of them being fatal.
And, since 1890, there have been less than 100 attacks on humans by mountain lions with fewer than 20 of those attacks being fatal.
So it’s not something you need to actively worry about.
However, mountain lions are starting to pop up in places they previously hadn’t inhabited.
Thanks to regulations against hunting mountain lions and cougars, their population is growing and their habitats are expanding, which could be the reason behind more recent sightings and close calls.
Chances of Being Mauled by a Mountain Lion vs. Bear
According to the National Park Service, there is a 1 in 2.1 million chance of getting mauled by a bear.
That’s much less than the chances of dying in a car accident.
And considering there have only been 19 mountain lion attacks in the past 36 years, the chances of getting attacked by a mountain lion are just as slim.
The chance of being mauled by either a mountain lion or bear would also depend on what area you are hiking or camping in.
Mountain lions like rocky canyons and mountainous terrain, while bears live in forests and grassy areas.
Neither animal sets out to hunt a human. But that doesn’t mean they won’t attack if they are provoked or threatened.
As long as you are cautious and aware of your surroundings, chances are, you won’t be mauled by either animal!
Where Do Mountain Lions Live?
According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, mountain lions used to be found across the entire United States.
But as their population decreased over the decades thanks to over-hunting, they are now mainly found in 14 western states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
There are also small populations of mountain lions in Arkansas, Florida, and South Dakota.
Mountain lions live in a variety of locals, from sea level all the way to mountain tops.
They have been found in humid forests, woodlands, wetlands, deserts, scrubby hills, canyons, and mountains.
They are mainly found in areas where their favorite prey, deer, can be found and places they can find plentiful shelter.
Preventing a Mountain Lion Attack
Mountain lions attacking humans may not happen regularly, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared just in case.
As long as you are conscious of your actions, aware of your surroundings, and knowledgeable about what to do, you will be good to go.
And if you’re wondering, “Does bear spray work on mountain lions? Should I pack it just in case?” The answer is yes to both questions!
It never hurts to be equipped with bear spray in case one accidentally runs across your path.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
It’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings, but especially when in the wilderness.
Look for signs that mountain lions may be in the area you are hiking.
Things like scratch marks on trees and fresh kills could indicate that they either frequent the area you are in or that they will be back soon.
It also helps to not hike alone. Mountain lions will be less likely to attack a group versus a single hiker.
If you come across cougar cubs or see signs of them, it’s best to leave the area immediately.
Like many other wild animals, mountain lions are fiercely protective of their young.
Make Noise, Be Loud and Aggressive
It may be tempting to enjoy a nice, quiet hike through nature.
But getting loud on your hike might deter any wild animals from approaching you or even convince them to go in another direction on the off chance that they are about to cross your path.
If you do stumble upon a mountain lion in person, don’t panic.
You’ll want to appear bigger and more aggressive than you may feel in the moment.
If you get loud and start waving your arms, the mountain lion with either see you as a threat and leave, or recognize you as a human, and not prey, and become disinterested.
Remember Not to Run
Running could be the very thing that triggers a mountain lion to attack.
Sudden, quick movements make them feel jumpy and threatened. So, naturally, you running in any direction would make them pounce.
It’s best to keep eye contact with the mountain and back away slowly. And never, ever turn your back to it.
What To Do if a Mountain Lion Attacks You
If the worst-case scenario does happen and you encounter a mountain lion that is ready to attack, make sure to stand your ground and stay calm.
Do Not Run Away
Never run away if you come face-to-face with a mountain lion.
Running could inspire them to chase after and attack you. Instead, hold your ground and stand up tall.
And no matter what, don’t crouch or get down low. You will look like four-legged prey to them if you do this.
Staying upright on two legs instead of four will show the mountain lion that you are not their usual prey- which is a good thing!
Look and Act Intimidating
If the mountain lion is acting aggressively, you must do something to intimidate it and make it think twice before attacking you.
Make yourself look bigger to the mountain lion.
Raise your arms, open your jacket, and even get loud! If you can do so without crouching or turning your back on the mountain lion, throw objects at it to scare it off.
Fight Back if Attacked
If push comes to shove and you or another are attacked by the mountain lion, fight back!
You can use anything you can get ahold of to fight off a mountain lion.
This includes sticks, rock, your bare hands, and, of course, bear spray. Remember to aim for their eyes.
Mountain lions like to go for either the neck or the head.
So do your best to ensure that you remain upright and keep these vital areas away from the animal.
How to Keep Mountain Lions Away From You and Your Campsite
When camping in an area that may have mountain lions, you should take precautions to ensure that you aren’t inadvertently attracting them to you.
Make your presence known
Send a message to any wildlife in the area that you are present by making noise.
Anything from talking loudly to singing to simply wearing a bell around your neck will make your presence known to animals and keep them from wanting to approach you.
Avoid walking or hiking alone
Mountain lions are more likely to attack someone who is alone versus an entire group.
So, for the safest hiking and camping experiences, go with a group!
Watch children closely
Keep a close eye on any children that you are hiking or camping with.
If they were to attack, mountain lions would be more likely to go for a child first as they are easier, smaller targets.
If out in the wilderness with a child, keep them close by and don’t allow them to run ahead or fall behind.
And especially don’t let them wander off alone.
You could also educate them on the importance of safety in the wilderness and the danger of mountain lions before you even set up on your expedition.
Hike during daylight hours
To ensure that you are less likely to encounter a mountain lion, hike during the daylight hours for best visibility and stay on trails that are already established.
Don’t forge your own trail- you may end up somewhere you shouldn’t be.
Watch for signs of mountain lions
Remember to be aware of your surroundings so that you can pick up on any signs that mountain lions have been in the area.
Things like claw marks, scat, and scratch piles made of leaves, dirt, pine needles, and grass would all be indicators that a mountain lion frequents the area.
Also, if you come across a mountain lion cub, go ahead and leave the area.
Like many other wild animals, mountain lions are fiercely protective of their young and if they sense a threat to them, they won’t hesitate to attack.
Select a campsite away from thick brush
Avoid camping in areas that mountain lions like. This includes animal trails, cliffs, rock over-hands, and areas with thick brush.
Avoid taking pets
Pets make easy prey for mountain lions and might even attract them. For you and your pet’s safety, leave them behind if possible.
Do not leave pets or pet food outside
If you do have to take your pet with you, don’t leave them alone or unattended, especially if they are outside your tent.
Just like children, they should never wander off on their own, either. This could attract a mountain lion right to you.
In the same vein, don’t leave any pet food, or human food for that matter, outside your campsite where a mountain lion might get a whiff of it.
How do you scare off a mountain lion?
If you encounter a mountain lion, the best way to scare it off is to make yourself bigger than you are and get loud.
Open up your jacket, wave your arms in the air, get loud, and even throw objects, such as a water bottle, at it.
However, don’t crouch down or get low to scoop up items to throw at it as they could see you as conquerable prey this way.
Does pepper spray work on mountain lions?
Yes, pepper spray works on mountain lions! In fact, pepper spray would be effective against any living animal with eyes and noses.
Just like bear spray, pepper spray will irritate a mountain lion’s sensitive nose and eyes, and it will cause a mountain lion to want to retreat.
How do you respond to a mountain lion?
If you come across a mountain lion, do not run away! Mountain lions could see you as prey and want to chase you if you turn around and run. Instead, hold your jacket open and wave your arms.
You could even yell at it and throw anything you are carrying in your hands. No matter what you do, make sure to not get low to the ground and never turn your back on it.
How often do mountain lions attack humans?
Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare. In fact, there have been only 100 mountain lion attacks since 1890 and of those 100, only 3 of them were fatal.
Mountain lions don’t consider humans prey and will only attack if they or their cubs feel threatened.
To Sum Things Up
Even though mountain lions don’t readily attack humans, the possibility still remains if they feel threatened.
To ensure your safety on any stint in the wilderness, avoid areas that mountain lions frequent and make sure not to attract them to you.
And if do in fact find yourself in the midst of a cougar that seems ready to attack, now you know the answer to your question, “Does bear spray work on cougars?” It does! And you shouldn’t hesitate to use it if they start charging you.
But, at the end of the day, the chances are slim that you will be attacked by a mountain lion or even spot one on your camping trip. So now you can rest easy and enjoy your camping trip!