Hiker In Utah Followed By Protective Mountain Lion Mother In Knuckle-Biting Encounter

Cougars, also known as mountain lions, don't want to attack you, but they will defend themselves and their young so you should know what to do if you come across one. Kwadrat/Shutterstock.com

A man hiking in the mountains in Utah recently came across what he thought were some fully grown wild cats. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

"I found what I thought were bobcats on the trail during a run," hiker Kyle Burgess wrote on YouTube. "Turns out they were cougar cubs and their mother was not happy to see me."

The 6-minute encounter, captured on video, begins with Burgess approaching what looks like a normal cat, before issuing quite a lot of expletives as he realizes what it is and backs away quickly, shortly followed by telling the animal to go away (but with more swearing) and roaring at it in an effort to scare it off.

Striking a more conciliatory tone, he asks the cougar "What's up, dude?" before backing away and roaring some more. In another change of tack, he informed her "I'm big and scary, go away" and assuring her he wouldn't come back.

The encounter then turns a whole lot more terrifying as the cougar makes some threatening moves towards him, notably more so when he briefly turns away from the animal. Eventually, Burgess is able to get a rock from the ground and throw it towards the cat, at last scaring it away.

Frightening as it looks, the encounter is unusual, as mountain lions do not usually attack humans and will do anything to avoid confrontation. In North America, there have been fewer than 20 deaths as a result of cougar attacks in over 100 years, with only 16 injuries and three deaths in Colorado since 1990, and fewer in Utah.

According to experts Burgess did the right thing by making himself loud and big, and the longer the encounter went on for the less likely he was in danger.

"This cougar was defending her cubs," wildlife expert Ron Magill of Zoo Miami told ABC News. "There was a threat to her cubs, she challenged him to back up. If she wanted to eat this guy, if she wanted to attack this guy, she would have."

However, there are some top tips for if you do come across one in the wild. The first (and most counter-intuitive) thing you should do is not run.

Stay calm, and do not approach the cougar, the National Park Service advises. Stand upright, talk calmly and firmly to it, whilst backing away slowly. Never turn your back on the lion, and do everything you can to appear larger than you are (raise your arms or spread open your jacket).

In the event the cougar still won't leave, it's time to throw rocks or branches, essentially whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back, in its direction. The idea is to convince it you are not prey. If that doesn't work, it's time to fight back

"A hiker in Southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son," the National Park Service says. "Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands."


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