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Puma Advice

A reader from America, Allison Blackham has sent in the following advice about Pumas issued by her local authority

LIVING WITH CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN LIONS

About half of California is prime mountain lion habitat. This fact is a surprise to many residents and visitors. These large, powerful predators have always lived here, preying on deer and other wildlife, and playing an important role in the ecosystem.

You may live or play in mountain lion country. Like any wildlife, mountain lions can be dangerous. With a better understanding of mountain lions and their habitat, we can coexist with these magnificent animals.

SOME FACTS ABOUT MOUNTAIN LIONS

Physical appearance

The mountain lion, also known as cougar, panther or puma, is tawny-colored with black tipped ears and tail. Although smaller than the jaguar, it is one of North America's largest cats.

Adult males may be more than 8 feet long, from nose to end of tail, and generally weigh between 130 and 150 pounds. Adult females can be 7 feet long and weigh between 65 and 90 pounds.

Mountain lion kittens, or cubs, are covered with blackish-brown spots and have dark rings around their tails. The markings fade as they mature.

Behavior

Mountain lions are very powerful and normally prey upon large animals, such as deer, bighorn sheep and elk. However, they can survive preying on small animals as well. They usually hunt alone, at night. They prefer to ambush their prey, often from behind. They usually kill with a powerful bite below the base of the skull, breaking the neck. They often cover the carcass with dirt, leaves or snow and may come back to feed on it over the course of several days. Their generally secretive and solitary nature is what makes it possible for humans to live in mountain lion country without ever seeing a mountain lion.

Habitat

Mountain lions live in many different types of habitat, from deserts to humid coastal areas, and from sea level to 10,000-foot elevations. They are more abundant in areas with plentiful prey. An adult male's home range often spans over 100 square miles. Females generally use smaller areas - about twenty to sixty square miles.

WHEN MOUNTAIN LIONS MEET PEOPLE

Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet and elusive. They are most commonly found in areas with plentiful prey and adequate cover. Such conditions exist in subdivisions, urban fringes and open spaces. Consequently, the number of mountain lion/ human interactions has increased. Even so, the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards. There is a far greater risk, for example, of being struck by lightning than of being attacked by a mountain lion.

WHAT IF YOU LIVE IN LION COUNTRY

Now that people and mountain lions occupy so much of the same geographical areas in California, encounters are expected to increase. If you live in mountain lion habitat, here is what you can do to reduce your chances of encountering a mountain lion near your home.

DONT FEED WILDLIFE

By feeding wildlife in your yard, you will inadvertently attract mountain lions, which prey upon them.

LANDSCAPE FOR SAFETY

Remove dense and/or low lying vegetation that would provide good hiding places for mountain lions, especially around children’s' play areas; make it difficult for mountain lions to approach your yard unseen.

INSTALL OUTDOOR LIGHTING

Keep the perimeter of your house well lit at night - especially along walkways - to keep lions visible.

KEEP PETS AND LIVESTOCK SECURE

Where practical, place livestock in enclosed sheds and barns at night, and be sure to secure all outbuildings.
Roaming pets are easy prey for mountain lions. Either bring pets inside or keep them in a kennel with a secure top. Don't feed pets outside. This can attract other mountain lion prey.

KEEP CHILDREN SAFE

Keep a close watch on children whenever they play outdoors. Make sure children are inside between dusk and dawn. Teach your children what to do if they encounter a mountain lion.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A MOUNTAIN LION

There's been very little research on how to avoid mountain lion attacks. But mountain lion attacks that have occurred are being analyzed in the hope that some crucial questions can be answered: Did the victim do anything to inadvertently provoke an attack? What should a person who is approached by a mountain lion do … or not do?

The following suggestions are based on studies of mountain lion behavior and analysis of attacks by mountain lions, tigers and leopards.

DO NOT HIKE ALONE
Go in groups, with adults supervising children

KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE TO YOU
Observation of captured wild mountain lions reveal that the animals seem especially drawn to children. Keep children within your sight at all times.

DO NOT APPROACH A LION
Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

DO NOT RUN FROM A LION
Running may stimulate a lion's instinct to chase. Instead, stand and face the animal. Make eye contact. If you have small children with you, pick them up if possible so they don't panic and run. Although it may be awkward, pick them up without bending over or turning away from the mountain lion.

DO NOT CROUCH DOWN OR BEND OVER
In Nepal, a researcher studying tigers and leopards watched the big cats kill cattle and domestic water buffalo while ignoring humans nearby. He surmised that a human standing up is just not the right shape for a cat's prey. On the other hand, a person squatting or bending over looks a lot like a four legged prey animal. If you're in mountain lion country avoid squatting, crouching or bending over, even when picking up children.

DO ALL YOU CAN TO APPEAR LARGER
Raise your arms. Open your jacket, if you are wearing one. Again, pick up small children. Throw stones, branches or whatever you can reach without crouching down or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice. The idea is to convince the mountain lion that you are not prey and that you may be a danger to it.

FIGHT BACK IF YOU ARE ATTACKED
A hiker in southern California used a rock to fend off a mountain lion that was attacking his son. Others have fought back successfully with sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, and their bare hands. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head and neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.

This material was prepared by the California Department of Fish and Game.

1416 Ninth Street,

Sacramento,

California, 95814
(916) 653-7203

Dec 1, 1998


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