In the vast majority of mountain lion encounters, these animals exhibit avoidance, indifference, or curiosity. Your response may not be so indifferent. It is natural to be alarmed, but keep your cool and consider the following:
There are a few cues that may help you gauge the risk of attack. If a mountain lion is more than 50 yards away, changes positions, directs attention toward people, and exhibits following behavior, it may be only curious. This circumstance represents only a slight risk for adults, but a more serious risk to unaccompanied children. At this point, you should move away, while keeping the animal in your peripheral vision. Also, take out a deterrent device or look for rocks, sticks, or something to use as a weapon- just in case.
For distances of less than 50 yards, where the animal is staring intensely and hiding, it may be assessing the chances of a successful attack. If intense staring and hiding continue, accompanied by crouching and creeping, the risk of attack may be substantial.
Do not approach a mountain lion; give the animal the opportunity to move on. Slowly back away, but maintain eye contact if close. Mountain lions are not known to attack humans to defend young or a kill, but they have been reported to “charge” in rare instances and may want to stay in the area. Best choose another route or time to pass through the area. Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate a predatory response.
If you encounter a mountain lion, be vocal and talk or yell loudly and regularly. Try not to panic: shout to others in the area to make them aware of the situation.
Maintain eye contact. Eye contact presents a challenge to the mountain lion, showing that you are aware of its presence. Eye contact also helps you know where it is. However, if the behavior of the mountain lion is not threatening (if it is, for example, grooming or periodically looking away), maintain visual contact through your peripheral vision and move away.
Appear larger than you are. Raise your arms above your head and make steady waving motions. Raise your jacket or another object above your head. Do not bend over as this will make you appear smaller and more “prey-like.”
If you are with small children, pick them up. First bring children close to you, maintain eye contact with the mountain lion, and pull the children up without bending over. Band together, if you are with other children or adults. Be prepared to defend yourself and fight back, if attacked. Try to remain standing. Do not feign death. Pick up a branch or rock, pull out a knife, pepper spray, or other deterrent device. Remember, everything is a potential weapon, and individuals have fended off mountain lions with blows from rocks, tree limbs, and even cameras.
Defend your friends or children, but not your pet. Most experts do not recommend physically defending a pet. Teach others in your group how to behave. One person or child who starts running could precipitate an attack.
If you have an encounter with a mountain lion, record your location and the details of the encounter, and notify the nearest park official, land owner, or other appropriate agency. Fish and wildlife agencies should also be notified because they record and track such encounters. Remember, agencies need accurate information regarding your encounter. Just because you see a mountain lion does not mean the animal is a threat to your safety. But, for your safety, ski in a group and try to avoid the low-light hours of dawn and dusk where mountain lion encounters are more common.