Mountain lions

7:25 p.m. on January 28, 2015 (EST)
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This may challenge the notion that the only dumb question is the one you don't ask. Regardless, do any of you consider the possibility of mountain lion attack when winter backpacking? Mountain lions are in abundance here this year. Most of the deer and elk move out of this area during winter so there isn't a heck of a lot for them to eat. Having said that, I would like to be doing some winter backpacking but can't shake the feeling that being a warm body laying out there at night seems foolish until their normal food source returns. Thought it would be fun to get your opinion.

7:37 a.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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Not a concern up here due to lack of kitties. Winter camping means I can sleep with the door open on my bearproof tent unless the wind is blowing from that side.

7:38 a.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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You'd be surprised at how resourceful a cat is.  Just because you don't see prey animals, doesn't mean mountain lions are in the same situation.   A single mountain lion's range can cover hundreds of square miles and they will go where their food source is.  Dawn and dusk are their active times for hunting, normally.  I seldom think about them unless I visit areas that have seen a particularly hard winter.  Springtime is "worry time" in those cases.  

11:15 a.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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Rob is correct. We have a fair number of mountain lions here in northern California, particularly on the Pacific coastline areas. There are also plenty of deer, their favorite prey. In winter, the deer move down in altitude, and the cats follow, sometimes moving into built-up areas. There is a large open space area around the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) with lots of deer. Neighbors along the boundaries of the Stanford property sometimes complain about seeing lion killing deer and eating them in full view of their children. Sorry, folks, but if you want a view of wilderness with the cute deer, then you have to accept the other side of the natural food equation. The benefit of having plenty of deer is that the lions leave the humans alone for the most part. We did have an exception a few months ago when a family hiking on a trail connected with a winery in the local hills let their young son run ahead of the group. A young puma saw the running kid as prey and jumped him. Luckily, the adults in the group were able to chase the cat away with injuries to the boy that were serious, but not critical. The authorities, however, hunted the cat down and killed it. This sort of attack is extremely rare.

I do a lot of hiking in the parks and Open Space Reserves, and thus have seen several lions, plus used to see lots of bobcat. Unfortunately, some well-meaning (I think) residents have been setting out poisoned meat to kill the coyote (who like to eat small pet cats and dogs). The result has been a sharp decline in the number of bobcat. The lions apparently can sense that the meat is undesirable, since my ranger friends tell me there have been no poisoned lion show up (so far). While I have photos of bobcat, every lion I have seen has been either when I did not have a camera with me or the camera was in my pack. One of my ranger friends managed to catch a photo of one over in Sunol Regional Park using a motion triggered camera (my motion triggered camera has caught only cattle and feral pigs). The Puma Project, however, has been quite successful in getting photos and attaching tracking collars on most of the lion in the SFBay area. It hasn't prevented several lion deaths in the past couple of years from getting run over by cars on Interstate 280, which runs along the spine of the SF Peninsula.

11:23 a.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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Nevada is mountain lion country. You can look at the density of deer and wild horses and get an idea of the population. We have them in the Valley and the mountains. I see and hear them once in awhile. I have never felt threatened by one.  Behind the house I carry a pistol but that is mostly for the coyote packs that are after my dogs.

11:56 a.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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I have some great pictures of several lion kill sites that we have come across in the wilderness areas of southern of them is exceedingly fresh and rather gory and graphic. I'm quite sure we were being watched as we viewed the carnage. Around kill sites that are older, you will see their signature droppings, a thing they like to do to warn other, lesser predators and scavengers I think. They do not try to hide them...

This is lion country like many of the members who live in the western states experience. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about it but the hair does come up on the back of my neck when I enter a site that is either a kill site or a place they have habituated for any length of time and left sign of some one pause for thought...

4:39 p.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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No Mountain Lions in TN that I'm aware of but we do have bobcats. I saw one on a snowy morning back in 2011 on the Balsam Mountain Trail in the Smokies but have never seen one since.

I didn't get a picture of the cat (ran away far too fast) but I did get a picture of it's tracks:




9:44 p.m. on January 29, 2015 (EST)
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Bill that stuff drives me crazy when parents let their children run free in lion country and then authorities have to kill the animal because it's just doing what it was designed to do, hunt.  Necessary I suppose because you can't have a predator actively hunting humans.  When my daughter was young and we lived in CO, she would never stray away from me when we were in the mountains.  That's just common sense, I would think.  And people who feel sorry for a deer getting taken down by a lion just baffles me.  The deer are necessary so the lion doesn't hunt humans or their pets.  You'd think an intelligent, logically thinking  person would understand that concept.  

One more thing I forgot to mention to the OP, if you come across the remains of a deer, steer clear because it may be a recent kill and the lion could be close by watching you. 

Cool pics patman . 

7:15 a.m. on January 30, 2015 (EST)
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I may not live in lion country any more but the decades I spent there definitely left a mark. I still check to make certain I'm not being stalked out of habit though I'm probably in more danger of being stepped on by a moose than anything else around here.

2:38 p.m. on January 30, 2015 (EST)
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Not sure what part of Nevada you are in Dale. But cougar attacks are pretty rare. As Bill S has said, if the main source of food migrates, so do the predators. I wouldn't worry.

6:46 p.m. on January 30, 2015 (EST)
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I once read about Edward Abbey hiking in Aravaipa Canyon just north of Tucson. He said he was walking along and had flet like something was following him, but every time he stopped to look around he never saw anything. Then after he had turned around on the trail he started seeing big cat prints on the trail where he had walked in that had not been there before. He decided that the Mtn Lion had been following or maybe stalking him and had left when he turned around.Later again he felt some presence and turned an a few hundred feet behind him was a mountain lion. I don't remember what he did next?

I have only seen their tracks in long hardened mud in southern Utah and read about a den of them in Jackson Hole WY years ago.

8:10 a.m. on January 31, 2015 (EST)
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Gary, the kitty wanted his belly scratched that's all.  ;-)

10:24 a.m. on January 31, 2015 (EST)
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This image circulates locally, since this bob was spotted in the Dolly Sods area. I've never heard of cats being bigger in WV, but I certainly wouldn't want to defend myself from this cat. They're definitely around, and active all year...


I took this image last July in the same area, Dolly Sods Wilderness of Monongahela NF. That's a size 11 bootprint.


10:56 a.m. on February 3, 2015 (EST)
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I have lots of lion stories, but my favorite was one I heard around a campfire on a trail ride up in NE Oregon. A friend of mine has a mountain cabin near Santiam Pass, and he went in early one spring on a snowmobile to check on it after a big snow year. A tree had fallen and busted a hole in the roof. He dug out the front door and stepped inside. He knew instantly that something was not right. A mountain lion had claimed his upstairs loft bedroom as his lair and was sleeping in his bed. The house was littered with old deer carcasses that the cat had dragged in through the roof.

6:22 p.m. on February 3, 2015 (EST)
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You know that cat was loving that bed and he was able to keep his food safe!  Pretty smart cat if you ask me.  

7:30 p.m. on February 3, 2015 (EST)
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This has turned into a fun conversation. Was gone for a few days and just got caught up. I live and work in the same mountains where I like to camp. There is a little town with about 12 full time residents just under a mile from our house and a bit larger one about 11 miles the other direction on the reservation. The closest real town is 85 miles.  Mountain lions and other predators are a common thing here but not something I think about often. I carry a pistol when it seems prudent but seldom use it. I know the feeling of the hair standing up on the back of my neck knowing that I am not alone in the hills. Spend a lot of time out there horseback and a horse will darn sure let me know we have company that I can't see. I'll admit it, that kind of stuff will make me move out into the open to relieve my jitters. 

 As to the cats following their food source this time of year, they usually do. This year is different and I thought I'd share with you some old-timer wisdom that was recently shared with me.  It was put to me this way: This is a mild winter and as a result the deer and elk are doing quite well over on their winter ground. The mountain lions are accustomed to having easy pickings over there as the prey animals are usually run down and weak this time of year from deep snow and harsh, cold temperatures. It's not like that this year. Any snow we have had has been rained off and it is unseasonably warm. The lions are having to work like heck to get anything to eat and have moved looking for easier prey. 

 Within about a 10 day period, three cats were killed less than a mile from my house and two more trapped in town on the reservation. So I'm told anyway. It was then that I postponed my winter backpacking and posted the question here.

9:34 p.m. on February 3, 2015 (EST)
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I have been fortunate to see mountain lions 3 times in the wild. The first time was in CA near Hunter Liggett. The other two times were near my home here in CO. There is an interesting video taken a few miles from my home (not by me) that shows a lion taking down a deer.  The commentary leaves something to be desired, but the video is good, if not for the squeamish.  See the link.

1:59 p.m. on February 21, 2015 (EST)
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Good for you!  I have yet to spot one in the wild, although I am sure they have seen me.  I have noticedmt lion tracks covering mine when returning from a climb (so Arizona).

There are many other hazards outdoors that present a more significant risk than the cats themselves.  That includes the firearms that some people carry to ward off attacks.

11:09 a.m. on February 22, 2015 (EST)
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I could change my name to "some people". Yes, I carry a pistol under certain circumstances. Are mountain lions the cause of that? No. Would I use it on one if I had to? Yes, though I'd rather not. But since I detect a note of condescension a thought occurred to me that "other people" might consider. There is no such thing as a marked or maintained trail here. I do not go camping in a national park.  I live in these mountains, I make my living here every day, and I play in these mountains. At times I carry a firearm with me. Does it occur to you, hikermor, that I have some very good reasons for doing so? Has it ever crossed your mind that not everybody who carries a pistol does so in an irresponsible manner? 

1:31 p.m. on February 22, 2015 (EST)
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As a matter of fact, many people do carry responsibly,and I (and you, as you say) are among that number.  Nontheless, there are far more injuries caused by careless use of firearms (typically guns plus alcohol) than by mountain lions.  This has been my personal experience in somewhere over 400 SAR incidents - about five firearm injuries, no mountain lion incidents - and we do support a vigorous lion population in S. Arizona.

I experienced exactly one incident where I would have used a firearm if I had carried one.  I was charged by a feral pig.  I booted him in the snout, ending the encounter.

When winter backpacking, there are about twenty things one could  tote that will be more critical and useful than a firearm.  I have nothing against guns, but my experience is that for most outdoor excursions, they are relatively useless weight and bulk.

None of my comments are directed at you personally, Dale. You "thought it would be fun to get your opinion" and now you have it...Be sure and carry an extra sweater, or extra fuel for your stove, or a suitable tarp, or bothy, or PLB, etc, etc.

10:34 p.m. on February 22, 2015 (EST)
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 You made some good points. Your SAR experience is great information and I'm glad you shared it. The same goes for kicking a feral pig in the snout. The times I need a pistol are work related so far and the stories don't need to be told. Those experiences, however, are exactly why I will continue to keep one handy.

8:11 p.m. on February 23, 2015 (EST)
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Dale is right about equines and their cat radar.They seem to be more afraid of mountain lions than bears even. I have mentioned the trip to eastern OR in 2007 where I ran into a mountain lion while riding a good mule.  He over-reacted and I broke my femur in the saddle. It took all day to get to a hospital.

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