What to Do If a Mountain Lion Invites You to Lunch

To quote Ogden Nash, if called by a panther, don't anther.

posted on March 25, 2022
mountain lion snarling

Imagine that you are sitting outside of your place of employment, enjoying your lunch on a beautiful, warm, sunny day. You have the perfect shade tree allowing only the cool breeze to pass through. Your favorite lunchtime spot provides difficult to find seclusion in a busy little town. Now imagine while enjoying this perfect lunch, you look up to discover a mountain lion staring down at you from your tree! This is exactly what happened in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

On a busy street in the healthcare corridor, employees of a local business found themselves staring up at a large mature tom (male mountain lion). The frightened employees immediately notified the local authorities of the unwelcome guest. Beautiful as these creatures are, you do not want them to become comfortable in a densely populated area of town.

This bold-in-nature cat was likely a dispersed male. Searching for a new place to call its home, he saw the potential of the city street—a life of ease. Free from any competition, this lion could feed on creatures big and small.

Idaho Fish and Game intervened. Big cats in the center of town are just too risky to cut loose. Once they have become comfortable as city dwellers, it becomes unlikely that they will leave without returning. They have a vast range of land that they cover (100 square miles according to the U.S. Forest Service), so relocation has proven to be a futile effort. These cats will just find their way back into a town, or your backyard.

Idaho Fish and Game always attempts to preserve and protect wildlife when possible, but the safety of people has to be of utmost importance. Unfortunately for this tom, this would be his last hunt. Wildlife technicians euthanized the cat. At least they hoped they did! Upon darting this large predator, he moved just enough to become lodged in the tree. One "lucky" wildlife technician got the job of riding the fire truck ladder up to make sure that he was dead and to remove the large cat from his perch. It was a moment filled with tension, even for those standing on the ground.

Mountain lions, also known as pumas or cougars, are amazing creatures. Mature male lions are known to reach 8 feet in length and weigh between 130 and 150 pounds. Lions are masterful hunters, and humans rarely notice their presence until they’re unbelievably close. If you are ever hiking through the woods and find what appears to be a lion’s kill site, remember to look up! Upon hearing humans, lions will typically climb into a nearby tree.

Hikers are always reminded to give lions plenty of space. Never attempt to get close, especially if the lion is accompanied by kittens or is on a kill site. If you ever encounter a mountain lion, stay calm, and don’t make any sudden movements. Slowly and confidently ease backward away from the cat. A panic-induced sprint could cause the lion to begin chasing you. Do not make yourself appear smaller by crouching down. If your efforts to avoid the lion fail, get loud and get big. While holding your hands in the air, begin yelling loudly. In the unlikely event that you are attacked by the lion, fight back with everything you have.

Most lions (in the wild) typically won’t pose a threat to humans. Attacks are rare and usually avoidable. It is possible to live your entire life around mountain lions without ever seeing one. However, rest assured—they saw you!


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