If you meet a cougar in the woods, don’t run. “Running triggers a chase response in cougars, which could lead to an attack,” the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife warns. Instead, look at the animal, raise your arms and tell it to go away in a firm voice. Easier said than done, probably, when a mountain lion is looking at you and licking its chops. And in the unlikely event that the cougar attacks, the department says to “fight back with rocks, sticks, tools” or anything else at hand.
None of that was necessary on July 25, when two female hikers in the McDonald Forest told Benton County deputies a cougar followed them for almost two miles as they walked down a trail to the Peavy Arboretum. Before giving the frightened hikers a ride to their vehicle, deputies told them that cougars live in the woods “and if they are hiking they need to be aware” of what to do.
And what is that? “Stay calm and stand your ground,” the wildlife department advises. Maintain eye contact and “leave the animal a way to escape.” If little kids are around, pick them up but don’t bend down or turn your back on the cougar.
The department says it would be very unusual for a cougar to attack a person. Unusual or not, hikers in the wilds of Benton County might consider arming themselves — with a big stick if nothing else — before they go out. (hh)
From Michele LaBounty, via Facebook: Hi Hasso! I did the same story about hiking with cougars in Southern Oregon and here in Central Oregon. The ODFW wildlife biologists gave the same advice — glad to know nothing’s changed.