Mountain Lions and Common Sense Precautions

For More Information Contact:

Wendy Keefover-Ring (303) 447-8655 ext 1#

“Life is full of risks, but rarely do they involve mountain lion attacks,” said Wendy Keefover-Ring, Director of Sinapu’s Carnivore Protection Program. “One is far more likely to sustain injury or death from an automobile accident, a dog bite, or even from a lightning strike.”

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 20,416 people died from injuries on the highway in 2002. The American Veterinary Association reports that 4.7 million dog-human incidents occurred in 1994—resulting in 12 to 17 human mortalities. CDC reports that approximately 82 people die from lightning each year.

In comparison, mountain lion attacks on humans are extraordinarily rare. University of California biologists Lee Fitzhugh and his colleagues found that between 1890 and 2003, 16 fatalities and 92 non-fatalities occurred as a result of interactions between humans and mountain lions.

Common sense precautions:

* Mountain lions hunt at dawn and dusk, which is the time when people need to be the most vigilant—the attack of the woman in California occurred at approximately 4 p.m.—at dusk.

* Homeowners living in puma country should eliminate hiding places for lions such as dense vegetation near the house—especially in children’s play areas. Put children’s play areas where they can be supervised from inside the house. Consider fencing children’s play areas—pumas prefer to ambush their prey; a fence is a good deterrent.

* In puma country, do not allow children to play outside at dawn or dusk. Children under 16 that are not accompanied by an adult are at the greatest risk.

* Most victims of lion attacks are children—64% of all attacks, according to Lee Fitzhugh et al.

* Homeowners should not attract deer. Plant only native foliage. Deer-proof fences that are 6 to 8 feet tall will deter both deer and pumas.

* Homeowners should install lighting in areas where family or pets move at dark.

* It is best not travel alone, especially at dawn or dusk. Trail runners and mountain bikers should run/ride with others! Fitzhugh reports that solitary individuals are three times more likely to have an encounter or sustain an attack than are a pair of people or a group.

* Do not allow pets to roam at night. In puma country, keep pets on a leash and securely confined at night. Kennels with a secure top are recommended—or enclosed in a building.

* If you encounter a lion: keep eye contact, move backwards slowly. Raise your arms over your head to appear larger. If you’re wearing a jacket, grab the corners and lift over your back (like wings) to appear larger. Yell. Throw rocks or sticks. Be super aggressive, never submissive.

“Using common sense while living or recreating in mountain lion country can substantially reduce or eliminate lion attacks,” added Keefover-Ring.

A top carnivore, mountain lions (also known as pumas, cougars, and panthers) are an umbrella species. They require large, connected habitats. If we conserve pumas, we protect a myriad of plants and animals.

Pumas require landscape features such as boulders or patches of trees near gaps that allow them to stalk and then ambush their prey—they cannot live on the wide open prairies or in dense forests. Unlike other native carnivores such as coyotes or wolves, their habitat needs are specialized.

Mountain lions evolved in the absence of human hunting pressures; they only recruit new members to the population slowly. Females give birth to approximately three kittens every two years; yet, many of those youngsters die in a few months’ time from predation, disease, or starvation. Mother pumas invest between 11 to 16 months on raising their kittens. Newly emancipated kittens or those orphaned are the most likely to get into conflicts with humans or domestic livestock as they may not have yet established their own territories or honed their hunting skills.

Humans pose the greatest danger to puma populations. They are highly susceptible to overhunting pressures. In Colorado, both the quota and the number of lions killed has gone up four-fold since 1980. For 2004, the mountain lion hunting quota (the total number of lions allowed by the state to be killed) is at 790. In 2001, sport hunters killed a record 439 cats in Colorado.

Puma hunting became regulated in 1965 as its status was changed from “varmint” to “big game” species.



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