Sunday, July 17, 2016

GSD Safety Tip - Mountain Lion Encounter


Mountain Lion Encounter

We Are Not Alone When Working Alone in the Field


     It can be easy to become complacent about the wild animals that are living in the outdoors where we work when you are going out day after day.  Unlike some areas with several large predators, the Black Hills National Forest of South Dakota and Wyoming has only one large predator of concern for field going personnel.  That predator is the mountain lion and recently, while conducting Black-backed Woodpecker surveys, I found myself within a football field’s distance from four (a mother and three older juveniles)!  Initially, I only saw the mother as I was coming up the ridge and that made me stop in my tracks.  I then quickly realized that she had 3 juveniles with her.  The training I received on what to do in such an encounter kicked in and the situation ended in a non-aggressive manner with myself and the animals going on our own way.  Having this encounter has motivated me to share and reinforce the “what to do” list in the event of a mountain lion encounter.  The following information was found on


1.      Make yourself appear as large as possible.

Make yourself appear larger by standing close to any other members of a field crew you may be with.  Open your jacket or other outer garments.  Raise your arms and wave them slowly.

2.      Make noise.

Yell, shout, or bang something against a tree.  Speak slowly, firmly, and loudly to disrupt and discourage predatory behavior.

3.      Act like a predator yourself.

Maintain eye contact.  NEVER run past or from a mountain lion.  NEVER bend over or crouch down.  Aggressively wave your raised arms, throw stones or branches, all without turning away.

4.      Slowly create distance.

Assess the situation.  Consider whether you may be between the lion and its kittens, or between the lion and its prey or cache.  Back slowly to a spot that gives the mountain lion a path to get away, never turning away from the animal.  Give the mountain lions the time and ability to move away.

5.      Protect yourself.

If attacked, FIGHT BACK!  Protect your neck and throat.  People have successfully utilized rocks, jackets, tree branches, walking sticks, packs, and even bare hands to turn away mountain lions. Never “play dead” to try and stop a mountain lion attack.


     During my encounter, I stopped moving forward after initially seeing what turned out to be the mother mountain lion.  I immediately started to observe the lion’s movements and saw there were three additional smaller lions (which I determined to be her juveniles).  At this point, the group of four lions was walking across my field of view and not towards me, so I decided to maintain my position.  The wind was in my favor and I remember being glad for that.  As they were working across my field of view, I decided to pull out my cell phone and record video so that if they were to start approaching me, I might have a record of anything that might happen.  Because the lions were a decent distance away and did not appear to know I was there or take interest in me, I decided to not draw attention to myself by making noise.  It wasn’t until I saw the video from my phone afterwards that I realized the adult lion looked in my direction before deciding to continue on.  Several minutes after the lions passed out of view, I slowly hiked back to the truck.


Special Thanks to Brian Dickerson, Wildlife Biologist at the Rapid City Lab for sharing his story and writing this month’s safety tip.  You can view Brian’s video of the encounter at:

                                                BHNF Mountain Lions


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