Wendy Keefover-Ring, Director, Carnivore Protection Program
Sinapu; Phone: 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 lightening strike."
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),
20,416 people died from injuries on the highway in 2002. The American
Veterinary Medical 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 lightening each
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
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
- 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
- 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 very aggressive, never submissive.
"Using common sense while living or recreating
in mountain lion country can substantially reduce or eliminate lion
attacks," says Wendy Keefover-Ring.
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
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 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 over-hunting 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 in Colorado became regulated in 1965
as its status was changed from "varmint" to "big
Top photos: USFWS