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Mountain Lion Encounters: What To Do and How to Avoid Them

We’ve outlined the differences between a mountain lion and a bobcat and how rare it is to see a cougar, but here’s information on how to avoid mountain lions and what to do if you actually encounter one.

Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series about mountain lions in Marin.

Local wildlife officials have told Patch there are probably only two to three mountain lions in all of Marin and, while it’s extremely unlikely to encounter one, it can happen. 

First, if you see a mountain lion, make sure it’s really a mountain lion. which are frequently incorrectly reported as mountain lions.

Second, don’t panic. There have been no verified mountain lion attacks in Marin since they started being recorded in 1890, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. California has only had 16 verified mountain lion attacks since 1890 and the Bay Area hasn’t had any verified attacks since 1909.

Rob Ruiz, Marin County Parks chief park ranger and Zara McDonald, executive director of the Sausalito-based Felidae Conservation Fund, gave us information on what to do if you encounter a mountain lion in the wild and how you can avoid them:

If you see a mountain lion:   

  • Appear as big as possible
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Do not approach the animal
  • Do not run or turn your back
  • Pick up children
  • Speak loudly and firmly
  • Throw rocks and sticks, etc.
  • Fight back if attacked
  • Try to take a picture of the wild feline so the sighting can be verified
  • Do not call 911, instead contact Felidae Conservation Fund at (415) 229-9335 or info@bapp.org, or call the Department of Fish and Game office for the Bay Delta region (707) 944-5500.

There are also steps residents can take to avoid drawing mountain lions or bobcats to their property: 

  • Keep food sources (including pet food) out of the yard
  • Keep bushes trimmed so mountain lions and bobcats can’t easily hide
  • Keep domestic pets safe at night
  • Keep garbage clean, because it will draw rats and rodents that will draw bobcats

And finally, steps you can do when you’re outdoors to avoid mountain lions:

  • Avoid hiking, biking or running alone (“It’s never good to jog or bike alone if you are way out in the woods, even if you fall and break your ankle,” Ruiz said.)
  • Avoid being outside between dusk and dawn
  • Keep children close
  • Never approach a cougar of any size, especially a kitten
  • Avoid deer carcasses (They can feast on one deer carcass for a week, hiding it in bushes and staying in the area. If you ever encounter a deer carcass in bushes with leaves and twigs on top of it, don’t stick around, Ruiz said.)

Mountain lions are secretive creatures, Ruiz said. “Wherever you hike, I’m sure one has seen you and you haven’t seen it.”

It’s up to humans to respect the wild felines, Ruiz said. “They live here. They were here before us.”

You can find more informatin about living with mountain lions on the Bay Area Puma Project website.  

Have you come face to face with a mountain lion in Marin? Tell us below in the Comments!

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