Cougar mom protects her babies

You are more likely to die from a bee sting or Bambi jumping through your window than you are from a cougar.

There is a viral video going around of a hiker and a cougar. The video is definitely scary. I am glad the hiker is safe. However, you don’t need to be scared of mountain lions while hiking. You need to be aware of them.

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TLDR:

  1. Cougar mom was protecting her babies.
  2. Cougar attacks are extremely rare.
  3. Cougars are important to ecosystems. If we kill cougars, more people will die from deer encounters than from cougars.

Terms

First some terminology.

A cougar is a large hunting feline. It has many names including puma, mountain lion, panther, painter and catamount.

1. The cougar mom was protecting her babies

At the beginning of the video you can clearly see 2 young cubs. The hiker was videoing these cubs, approaching them with his phone out. One of the cubs runs away and then you see the mom come running down the trail.

The hiker violated the #1, and #2 rules about wild animals.

  1. Don’t approach wild animals
  2. Don’t get near baby wild animals.

He did well to not turn and run, and to yell and make himself appear threatening but the cougar mom was going to make sure he left to protect her babies.

From the interview he gave, he said he didn’t realize what kind of animal it was when he first approached. He thought it was bobcats. But even when you don’t know what animal it is, don’t approach wild animals. You are on their turf.

2. You are more likely to die from a bee sting or a lightning strike, than from a cougar.

Every time you go hiking, do you carry a fly swatter and Raid just in case a bee attacks you? No? Then don’t be worried about cougars.

Fatal cougar attacks are extremely rare and occur much less frequently than fatal snake bites, fatal lightning strikes, or fatal bee stings.

There have been 125 mountain lion attacks in the last 100 years of which 27 were fatal attack. That is 1.25 per year.

You are more likely to be murdered by Bambi jumping through your windshield than you are from a cougar.

“Pumas tend to be fearful of humans, so most of the time they just avoid us. Some people can live in the Santa Cruz Mountains their whole lives and never see one. They’re called ghost cats.”

Source — Veronica Yovovich, Environmental Studies graduate student at UC Santa Cruz and a researcher with the Santa Cruz Puma Project

From the government safety sheet about cougars:

Don’t approach a cougar. Most cougars want to avoid humans. Give a cougar the time and space to steer clear of you.

3. Cougars are very important to the ecosystem

Cougars are important as apex predators, which means they are at the top of the food chain. They are critical in helping maintain a healthy ecosystem. Ninety-five percent of the cougar diet is deer. This naturally regulates the deer population, which in turn regulates the numbers and types of plants that deer feed on.

If we got rid of cougars, more people would die from encounters deer, than ever died from cougars.

Seriously. Deers are the deadliest animal in the US. Each year, deer cause about 1.3 million car accidents, and around 200 of them are fatal.

Cougars are part of a “trophic cascade” or a change that starts at the top of the food chain and goes down. If left unchecked, deers will eat nearly all plant life. If you have natural predators, the deers avoid certain areas and the plants live, the song birds live, the smaller mammals live like beavers. Beaver dams provide habitats for otters, and muskrats, and fish and ducks, and reptiles and amphibians. Cougars are part of the circle of life.

Conclusion

When hiking, you are in the wild. You are in the cougars territory. It doesn’t like you, and is afraid of you. You are more likely to die from a bee sting or a deer than a cougar. Cougars are an important part of our ecosystem. If you do see a cougar, make yourself big, don’t turn and run, and be aggressive.

Sources:

Written by

Code, design, cook. Make stuff. Cookies. @BYU grad.

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