Oct 27, 2005 at 9:33 pm #1217019
@craig_shelleyLocale: Rocky Mountains
Backpacking Monday night, I had a cougar wake me up. It growled repeatively, loudly, nearby. After shining my headlight in the direction of the sound, I couldn’t see anything. I decided quickly my best defense was to cup my hands to my mouth and make the loudest sound that I could. The cougar stopped. I ductaped my pocket knife to the end of my hiking pole for a potential weapon. A few minutes later I heard the cougar from a farther distance with just one growl. After staying up for another hour, there weren’t any additional sounds that I heard.
Now, here’s my question. Are there ways to keep cougars away from your camp? Today I thought perhaps a high pitched sound might be annoying and such a device may not be too heavy. I suppose an electric fence with a high voltage is possible. I don’t know how effective bear spray may be. A locking knife a little bigger than my tiny pocket knife might make my hiking pole into a better weapon. Does anyone have suggestions or have you heard of anything? Screaming back seemed to work pretty well. A pile of rocks by my bed may be a possible lightweight strategy.
And then again, I guess I could just count myself lucky that I had the experience and it won’t likely happen again. Sadly, by the time I started thinking I needed to record the sound it was over.
I backpack about twice a month in remote desert areas. I don’t know if the cougar will always wake me up before he considers whether to eat me up!
CraigOct 27, 2005 at 10:04 pm #1343846
@eaglembLocale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
The electric fence requires a battery, and with a few $$$ exceptions, they’re all going to be pretty heavy if you’re going to run them for very long.
There are products built that deter dogs, by providing an intense 17-18 KHz sound that is very annoying to them. Don’t know if that is also the peak audible frequency response of a cat, but they definately work on dogs. Weight, depending upon model, is going to be 0.5 – 1+ lb.
Another idea would be a PIR, Passive Infrared alarm. I have one of these, runs weeks on a single 9V battery, and weighs about 65 grams w/o battery. It has a piercing alarm that goes off when it detects a mammal from the size of a small dog and up.
Hope that helps.
MikeBOct 27, 2005 at 11:51 pm #1343852
bear spray should work well. i’ve read it works on African Lions (and bears).
one or two large (brave, not cowardly) dogs would probably work too – as long as they can bark. this is not from my experience, however, but rather from reading books as a kid and more recently watching Discovery channel in the mid to late 90’s when it still had decent programming. many, many yrs ago i read a hunting magazine article about how dogs can be used to “tree” cougars in some parts of the country. apparently, they really don’t like barking. supposedly the feline psyche, in this case, is that a lone predator like a cougar can’t take any risk of being injured, or it will likely starve to death, being unable to hunt. that’s why a brave/agressive 85lb GSD, or similar dog, guarding its “pack” (you), can be used to scare off a 150lb cougar. obviously, if the cougar is old or injured, and unable to hunt faster more agile smaller game, it might decide the dog (and/or you) might be worth the risk. again, none of this is first hand experience.Oct 28, 2005 at 11:00 am #1343874
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
Cougars are usually afraid of adult people.
If it was screaming at you, you might have been
close to a hidden kill. You might try moving
your camp. Dogs can be either seen as a predator
or prey. You would need enough dog (more
dog mass than cougar mass) to deal with a
angry or hungry cougar. Otherwise just a loud dog
would chase off most, but then you could too.
My choices would be- in order.
Hike with more people
Hike with large dogs
Carry pepper spray
If you are entering a place known for having
cougar attacks- don’t. Wait for someone to
capture that particular cougar.
Some leopard hunters wear hockey or foot ball gear and carry a shotgun loaded with buckshot when going in after a wounded cat. Doesn’t sound too ultralight.Oct 28, 2005 at 12:15 pm #1343879
@craig_shelleyLocale: Rocky Mountains
I’ve lived in this area for 17 years and I don’t recall hearing of a cougar attack. I’ll contact the BLM and find out if they have ever heard of one.
FYI: The area I often hike through is the Black Ridge Wilderness that is in included in the McInnis Canyons Conservation area. It’s near the Utah Colorado border (actually, it overlaps it).
I’ll buy some pepper spray.
Mike, could you give me more information about the passive infrared alarm you have?
If anyone wants to see some beautiful scenery without people, come visit and I can let you be my lightweight defense against the cougar.
By the way, cougars make a lot of different sounds. I checked on the web to find the sound. If you are interested, http://www.garlynzoo.com, has the match. Click cougars, click link near the bottom of the page called loud cougar. This is exactly what I recall it sounding like.
CraigOct 28, 2005 at 12:21 pm #1343881
good point on the cougar’s cache – maybe it was? i don’t know how/where cougars cache the remains of a kill.
i’ve read of small dogs being taken by a cougar and saw a show on TV which “re-enacted” another similar incident of a woman jogging with her sm-med sized dog (i think it was somewhere in CA). the show was on “supposedly” documented Cougar attacks – small children, women, sm. to med. sized dogs, etc. (who knows if you can believe everything in a TV show like this?)
[note: if anyone doesn’t t like animal stories – no need to read any further.]
as far as “mass” vs. “mass”. it really may not have to be equal or greater. it’s really that psyche thing – esp. with cats (even big cats). even 2-3 lionesses (~275 to ~300lb each), who have the benefit of a pride and are generally not lone hunters, can be bluffed off a kill by 160lb hyaenas. i saw this once, filmed footage, on an excellent wildlife show. three lionesses bluffed off a Gnu/Wildebeest they had just brought down. it took only 4 hyaenas to do this. one lioness fled quickly; the other two tried to stay their ground, briefly, but fled rather quickly also. immediately after the lionesses fled, the 450lb male lion who ruled the pride charged in, swatting one hyaena, sending it airborne, and then charged the others. the hyaenas fled. the narrator explained this as the lionesses, who do the hunting, cannot afford injury.
i also read, many years ago, a magazine article by a hunter who supposedly witnessed the following incident (i don’t know how true the story was). he came upon a deer brought down in winter by a cougar. as he watched, a wolverine bluffed the cougar off the kill. the reason stated was the same. the cougar can’t afford any injury to a leg, for instance, or hunting will be very difficult or impossible.
obviously, these are very limited incidents. and there are somewhat unpredictable animals involved. it would be very dangerous for me to draw inviolate conclusions from these minimal incidents. i only mention them to show that it MIGHT be possible that a lesser canine “mass” might bluff a larger feline “mass”. obviously, the larger the dogs (and the more of them), the better the odds would be of scaring the Cougar off – no argument from me there. obviously, injured, old, starving, cornered animals may behave diff than typical.
the hunting magazine story i mentioned in the prev. post, actually had the photo of 3 med-large sized coonhounds, treeing a large male cougar (i’ve also read a larger pack of smaller foxhounds doing the same thing). here, as you pointed out, the masses were somewhat equal (dogs prob. were greater – as were their numbers). this 3-dog photo was not the only incident of treeing or scaring off the article had. i think that if it had been only one dog, once the Cougar was cornered, the Cougar may have turned the tables on the the one dog – but this is just an assumption on my part; the article didn’t have any story similar to that. again, the truth of these tales – i don’t know. but, even assuming their veracity, i would hesitate to draw hard and fast conclusions about somewhat unpredictable animals.
[note: i did witness, over 30yrs ago, a bobcat (yes, i know what a “real” bobcat look like – it was a positive I.D.) owned by a nutty friend of mine, get chased by a neighbor’s GSD (german shepherd dog). he and i were in pursuit – but way too slow to keep up. we were over 50ft away when the cat got cornered. obviously, the cat attacked and the dog (weighing more than 2x the wt of the 35lb bobcat), took off yelping. BTW, this nutty friend of mine, another ex-marine, a huge, powerful man, actually (until the neighbors complained) had an African lion in his home – a young male, ~2yrs old. he had it from a cub. not sure how he came by it and i personally never saw the lion (others who had seen him with the Lion told me about it, but i saw the scars on his back from being clawed once), but he was forced to give it up (thank goodness – it prob. would have killed him one day – Rich told me that the clawing incident was an early attempt to assert its dominance. maybe as it started develop some elevated testosterone levels???) and he drove it to a zoo in his old Ford Pinto. that would have been a sight to see on Interstate 95!!! sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.]
guess we really need the input of a wildlife/field biologist who has studied these animals, like Dr. Hornhocker??? or something like that; can’t remember the spelling of his name – 20-30 yrs ago i think he was the leading expert on Cougars – he wrote a great article – i read it in Nat’l Geo i think it was (i do remember from the article the largest cougar at that time that he had “tranq-ed”, examined, weighed, and tagged was 181lb).
good advice you gave “If you are entering a place known for having cougar attacks- don’t.” (clever wording; sage advice)Oct 28, 2005 at 1:43 pm #1343883
I was under the impression that there isn’t a whole lot you can do to protect yourself from cougars (short of hiking in groups and/or with dogs, llamas or horses). In that you don’t have enough time to respond to an approaching cougar until its already upon you. Unlike a bear which typically gives you warning before they strike.Oct 28, 2005 at 2:13 pm #1343884
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
I usually bring my pet wolverine, figuring either the kitty will leave us alone or I’ll have a great video to sell.
But seriously, all the mountain lion attacks I know of have been on people on the move–hiking, running, bicycling–which perhaps triggers the preditor-prey response. Man as deer. Further, the attacks tend to be from behind and/or above with no warning–there won’t be any utterances to tip off the hiker/dinner. While things that go roar in the night guarantee no sleep, I suspect the chances of being snatched from beneath your tarp are effectively zero. We’ll relegate that bad behavior to Mr. Griz.
All that said, if there’s a showdown on the trail (a cat protecting a den or kill, perhaps) pepper spray would be a good idea. I like anything that reinforces man=bad in a potential preditor.
p.s. IIRC Rhodesian ridgebacks were bred to take on lions. Having known a few I can believe it, but you’d need at least two to make the odds fairly even. Those, and two Karelian bear dogs and you’d be ready for anything!Oct 28, 2005 at 2:22 pm #1343885
It has to be stressed that cougar attacks on people are very, very, very rare. Let’s not get too paranoid.
Last month, on a solo in the Yosemite backcountry, I had a close lion sighting. Coming over a ridge, i immediately saw a browsing deer and not 50 feet from it (and from me), a cougar stalking it. It saw me immediately and did a tremendous 20+ foot leap (fantastic!) downslope and out of sight from me. I felt blessed to see such a sight, very beautiful creatures. Never,once, felt threatened afterwards. Never saw it again.
It’s not a real wilderness if it doesn’t have a few alpha predators (apart from homo sapiens) in it.Oct 28, 2005 at 2:35 pm #1343886
Two Rhodies and two Karelians… thats quite a hiking party.Oct 28, 2005 at 4:06 pm #1343890
Hope the dogs are carrying their own food and water.
RichOct 28, 2005 at 4:30 pm #1343892
Good point on the “attacks”. Cougars are stalk and ambush predators.
Don’t forget to throw in a couple of Akita’s. They were bred to hunt the Yezu Bear (up to 800lb) of Hokkaido Island. A pair (male and female) were expected to hold the bear at bay until the hunters could dispatch the bear. Rhodies, Karelians, and Akitas: Now we’ve got the makings a right proper “pack” – even the wolves will think twice!!Oct 28, 2005 at 4:33 pm #1343893
But with such a dog pack, which should we have more concern about the dogs or the cougar and wolves?
RichOct 28, 2005 at 4:39 pm #1343895
What would Edward Abbey do?Oct 28, 2005 at 4:48 pm #1343896
@pyeyoLocale: pacific northwest
Cougars will take a dog for a meal around our area. We had a young cat decimate the pet population in our neighborhood before I reluctantly shot it.[mission ridge,wenatchee,wa.]
The real problem with big cats is they stalk you along time before they might attack,they’re there a long time before you know it,bear spray and/or cherry bombs if you have time,fight like heck if you don’t.Oct 28, 2005 at 10:32 pm #1343918
Here is one of the best cougar attack resources.
There have been some attacks on kids and dogs in the Olympic mountains, so we keep our kids close and in front.Oct 29, 2005 at 12:00 am #1343920
if you actually read the content at http://tchester.org/sgm/lists/lion_attacks.html
it will refute a lot of misconceptions concerning
this topic.Oct 29, 2005 at 1:56 am #1343921
speaking from experience (not while hiking and not with that particular mix of breeds – never worked with a Karelian), just make sure to maintain Alpha dominance of the dog/pack. if you do so, you will be fine. it’s all about bluff, and positve AND negative reinforcement – all based upon an understanding canine and pack psychology. i’ve assisted with and personally trained more than one problem dog – some of them large enough that they could have literally killed me (or at least bitten me – a far more likely type of attack) had they realized that they could. oh…while my friend, Len, a USAF and later pro. dog trainer, didn’t, i carried ‘Halt’ pepper spray – just in case a “gripper” or “ripper” latched on and wouldn’t let go after a quick bite. [would never be quick enough to draw it before a bite, working at such close range with the dogs] i had already, as a teen, been hospitalized once for 5d following an attack by a poorly bred and socialized GSD. nearly lost my left hand. it’s amazing how much damage a large dog can do in a very short period of time.
maybe the “bluff” aspect might have some carry over to Poker??? just kiddin’ on the Poker, but the rest was serious.
based upon some prev. posts, i feel i need to make myself clearer. all posters are absolutely correct that a lone individual would not have time to draw and aim pepper spray b/f a cougar attack (the typical stalk and ambush mode of most (all?) felines from the tiny house cat in the back yard all the way up to Tigers). i think we all know this based upon how they stalk and ambush. the point of the pepper spray is 1) they will respond to it; i’ve read of it being used in African game preserves on Lions, and 2) a lone Cougar can only attack one person (or dog) at a time. hopefully, there will be several seconds where a second person (or first person if it’s their dog being attacked) might deploy the pepper spray. this assumption, however, is obviously not from any first-hand experience on my part. unfortunately, due to population density in my locale, and many people’s utter disregard for the law and the safety of their dogs, i’ve had to use pepper spray on loose dogs more times than i care to (and can) remember. all, without exception, having very similar, desirable (from my perspective) responses. it’s no surprise it works on bears and large felines also. this is my only point. it will work – i believe (never personally tried dog spray on a cat – there’s never been a need to; and in my position it would be a cruel experiment to do so). but i agree with all who posted stating a lone individual would not have time to deploy it before an attack. oh…so i’m not misunderstood, use bear spray, not dog spray on the cougar.
lastly, as a prev poster stated “let’s not get paranoid”, good advice. hiking is no fun if it’s all “Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…oh my!” i would guess that we have a better chance of falling to our death out on a hike, than of even seeing one of these large mammals, much less being attacked by one.Oct 29, 2005 at 3:09 am #1343927
good link. read most of it – skimmingly. out of time now, but will complete it.
some really excellent material here. some parts just a little sketchy, i.e. not enough detail. this doesn’t mean that i doubt the statements, but that i can’t make an informed, intelligent decision based solely on the statement. here’s what i mean. the article mentions dogs being an attractant to cougars. i’ve read and seen on TV small (cute little dogs) and sm-med sized dogs being taken by cougars. anyone come across a lone larger dog 75+ lbs being taken? we’re getting (closer to) wolf sized now. of course, if the dog is not agressive and flees, i’m sure the cougar’s prey drive will take over. cougar’s are known to take down larger deer (young? old? sick?). so size, alone is not the ultimate deterrant – prob. a combo of factors. while i’m sure that a cougar could have made mince-meat of my 105lb male Akita or my 93lb female Rottie, i’m not sure that it would have wanted (unless starving) to take a chance. it would have undoubtedly killed either dog, but they were exceptionally brave and prob. would have fought back and not run. plus, they might have either scented (unlikely as cougar would prob. have been down wind i would imagine) or heard the cougar before the attack and “alerted” on it’s position (dogs can pinpoint a sound to 5deg; humans ~20deg). the cougar prob. would have been bitten badly at least once. dogs have an amazing ability to “turn around” inside of the loose skin on their neck (esp. the Akita – and also many other breeds) to latch on to a leg or even the neck of what’s biting them. this is my point. would a single larger dog work as a detterent? maybe when i get back and read the article closely (and its “links”), i’ll have my answer.
perhaps it’s just the agression of a pack of 3 65lb hounds that causes cougars i’ve read about to flee and become “tree’d”? [note: the hunters may be 10 or more minutes away – homing in on the sound of their hounds] perhaps it’s atypical? i sure don’t know.
can’t wait to have more time later this weekend to read the entire article/webpage closely. it looks like it’s expertly written and can be trusted to be accurate. hope to learn a lot from it.
thanks Douglas for providing the link in your post.Oct 29, 2005 at 7:31 am #1343929
My comments about the dogs vs. cougars and wolves were half in jest, however, from my understanding when enough dogs get together their behavior tends to change to more of a pack relationship. The only question of course if that happens would we (as “master”} still be able to control the behavior of all the dogs as an alpha.
RichOct 29, 2005 at 8:48 am #1343932
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
Craig, The Black Ridge Wilderness is probably one of the best kept secrets in Colorado(until now). :-) While hiking there back in March, I was feeling a little spooked by the “presence” of mountain lions. Waking up one morning, I found fresh lion tracks in this dry wash near my camp.
Just off the top of my head,I can’t think of any any attacks in the Grand Junction area. Along the Front Range, there was the case of the high school athlete killed while training near Idaho Springs. A hiker was attacked in Roxborough Park, near the southwest suburbs of Denver, and managed to fight off the lion in hand-to- paw combat by sticking his thumb in the lion’s eye. There was another case of a hiker being treed by a lion on the west side of RMNP. In another chilling case, a woman was treed by two lions hunting together near Boulder. She was only able to escape when easier prey,deer, appeared on the opposite slope. A great book covering these encounters and many more is “The Beast in the Garden” by David Baron. Don’t read it if you want to be less paranoid about mountain lions.Oct 29, 2005 at 9:59 am #1343933
I’ve read the book and I can’t say that it engenders paranoia at all ( despite playing up the sensationalistic aspects). Although I realize that people can read anything into anything.
The more you you know about Mountain Lions— and that means reading the scientific literature on the subject, as well— the more you will respect these amazing animals and develop a balanced attitude about the relative danger they present to the wilderness traveller. Common sense applies and that does not include carrying pepper spray, hunting packs, artillery, or tactical nuclear devices.
If you live out West on a forest edge (as I do) with an over abundant population of deer and people’s homes encroaching ever more into historic Lion habitat—there’s no question that human/lion interactions will increase—usually in the form of disappearing poodles and cats ( although, coyotes are almost always the ones responsible). My border collie/shepherd mix chased away a lion, last year, not 100 yds. from my home.
My 10 year old son is educated in Lion-savvy behavior. Everyone out here should be—but most of us are not constantly looking over our shoulders. Some solo joggers on our forest trails do indeed bring along their dog— good for company, good exercise for both, but sometimes bring other problems.
I worry far more about misbehaving dogs (hell is other people’s dogs) and rabid rodents than the incredibly small possibility of being pounced on by a cougar.Oct 29, 2005 at 10:26 am #1343934
@dondoLocale: Colorado Rockies
David Baron, author of “The Beast in the Garden” has been interviewed extensively on local radio shows here. Paranoid is probably too strong a word, but he is a lot more cautious after researching his book. I remember him saying that he will no longer hike alone along the Front Range. I personally won’t go that far but am more watchfully alert when hiking in areas where there have been recent cougar sightings.Oct 29, 2005 at 10:34 am #1343935
“Watchfully alert” is good—that’s a good way of describing a healthy wilderness travel mental state.
I try to cultivate it.Oct 29, 2005 at 11:26 am #1343939
i knew it was half in jest. other than the “Poker bluff” comment i couldn’t think of a clever way of indicating that i understood your intent. perhaps, instead of trying to be clever, i should have just stated i understood such to be the case.
like you said “their behavior tends…to…pack…”. however, if you’re the strong Alpha in the pack – no worries. just be more dominant than the Beta male. remember in this fictitious scenario, it’s YOUR (or my) pack – NOT a pack of strange dogs (that can be dangerous).
anyways, i guess i’m getting the Thread off the track.
yours is the first post i’ve read since getting back in. i can’t wait to read more about Cougars. hope to learn some good stuff. take care.
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