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Keep Me Wild: Mountain Lion

California Mountain Lions

More than half of California is mountain lion habitat. Mountain lions generally exist wherever deer are found. They are solitary and elusive, and their nature is to avoid humans.

Mountain lions primarily eat deer, but, if allowed, they will prey on vulnerable pets and livestock. In extremely rare cases, even people have fallen prey to mountain lions.

Mountain lions that threaten people are immediately killed. Those that prey on pets or livestock can be killed by a property owner after the required permit is secured. Moving problem mountain lions is not an option. It causes deadly territorial conflicts with other mountain lions already there. Or the relocated mountain lion returns.

Help prevent unwanted conflicts with these beautiful wild animals. Do your part, keep them wild.

Living in Mountain Lion Country

  • Acknowledge that you live in mountain lion country and make a commitment to educate yourself.  Talk to your neighbors and work together.
  • Never feed deer or other wildlife; it is illegal to feed deer and other big game in California and it will attract mountain lions.
  • Deer-proof your landscaping by avoiding plants that deer like to eat. For tips, request A Gardener’s Guide to Preventing Deer Damage from CDFW offices.
  • Trim brush to reduce hiding places for mountain lions.
  • Don’t leave small children or pets outside unattended.
  • Install motion-sensitive lighting around the house.
  • Provide sturdy, covered shelters for sheep, goats, and other vulnerable animals.
  • Don’t allow pets outside when mountain lions are most active—dawn, dusk, and at night. 
  • Bring pet food inside to avoid attracting raccoons, opossums and other potential mountain lion prey.

What to do if you Encounter a Mountain Lion

Mountain lions are quiet, solitary and elusive, and typically avoid people by nature. However, as human population expands into mountain lion habitat, more frequent sightings may occur and human/mountain lion encounters may increase.

Mountain lion attacks on humans are extremely rare. However, attacks have occurred in California. Understanding mountain lion behavior and how to act responsibly in mountain lion country may greatly reduce potential conflict with these majestic animals.

The following safety information is a compilation taken from wildlife managers, wildlife officers and scientists that study mountain lion behavior. Although no strategy in the event of an encounter is guaranteed to be successful in every situation, these tips will help keep you safe in lion country.

  • Do not hike, bike, or jog alone. Stay alert on trails.
  • Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active – dawn, dusk, and at night.
  • Keep a close watch on small children.
  • Off leash dogs on trails are at increased risk of becoming prey for a mountain lion.
  • Never approach a mountain lion. Give them an escape route.
  • DO NOT RUN. Stay calm. Running may trigger chase, catch and kill response. Do not turn your back. Face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms, or opening your jacket if wearing one; throw rocks or other objects. Pick up small children.
  • Do not crouch down or bend over. Squatting puts you in a vulnerable position of appearing much like a 4-legged prey animal.
  • Be vocal; however, speak calmly and do not use high pitched tones or high pitch screams. 
  • Teach others how to behave during an encounter. Anyone who runs may initiate an attack.
  • Carry and know how to use bear spray to deter a mountain lion. Bear spray has been shown to be successful in emergency situations with mountain lions. Have the spray readily accessible. Carry in a holster belt or attach to a mountain bike. Talk to the folks at your local outdoor store. Make sure you know how to properly use bear spray. People have been known to spray their own faces when attempting to use it.
  • If a lion attacks, fight back. Research on mountain lion attacks suggests that many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, garden tools, even an ink pen or bare hands. Try to stay on your feet. If knocked down, try to protect head and neck. 
  • If a mountain lion attacks a person, immediately call 911.
  • Report unusual mountain lion behavior to your local CDFW regional office.

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1416 9th Street, 12th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 322-8911


mountain lion

Identification

lion track compared with dog track
The mountain lion track on the left can be distinguished from the dog track on the right by the absence of toenail prints and by the “M” shaped pad.

bobcat
Bobcats are sometimes mistaken for mountain lions.