Like all mountain lion attacks across the United States and Canada, mountain lion attacks in California are rare, very rare but there is no doubt that there is a distorted perception born out of plain fear that attacks are more likely than they are and the fear is somewhat unjustified. People apparently think that a return to hunting the cougar would do the trick and eliminate mountain lion attacks. However despite the ban on hunting as many cougars are shot today as were in the days of allowed hunting (src: http://tchester.org/sgm/lists/lion_attacks.html#stats).
And the level of fatal attacks are a tiny fraction of those that occur in traffic accidents and by attacks from dogs. We should concentrate on these before killing an animal that is precious to the world. We should also take some of the blame for mountain lion attacks. Human population growth and habitat destruction forces the cougar closer to human and decreased prey (due to human activity) will also encourage attacks. In addition not encouraging attacks by for example taking a dog on wilderness walks is our responsibility.
Also what comes over clearly on reading the accounts and data on attacks is that rocks thrown at the head of the cougar deters it and on a number of occasions has caused the cougar to release the attacked person. The table below shows how rare attacks are. Often a cougar suspected of being the attacker is shot. I understand this of course but it just seems wrong. “No attacks” means no reported attacks.
|Date||Attack – Event||No of people attacked|
|1891 – 1908||No attacks||0|
|1909||Rabid cougar injures woman and child. Both die of rabies.||2|
|1910 – 1985||No attacks||0|
|1986||Boy and girl attacked – separate incidents. Girl seriously hurt, boy minor injuries||2|
|1987 – 1991||No attacks||0|
|1992||Boy attacked, scratched and bit. The children were on a trail ahead of father. Rock thrown at cougar’s head deterred it.||1|
|1993||Unverified attack on boy and girl attacked suffering minor injuries.||1|
|1994||3 attacks (a) woman killed (b) woman suffered minor injuries attacked by rabid cougar (d) woman killed||3|
|1995||Man attacked suffering minor injuries. Rocks deterred cougar||1|
|1996 – 2003||No attacks|
|2004||(a) Woman on bike attacked and seriously injured (b) woman attacked and seriously injured||2|
|2005 – 2006||No attacks||0|
|2007||70 year old man attacked and the cougar deterred by a log blow to snout.||1|
|117 years||14 attacks|
- Mountain lion attacks in California are very rare and the risk much less than many other commonly accepted hazards
- Cougars can be deterred and chased off with calm and proper technique
- Proactive steps can be taken to help prevent attacks
- For me: we shouldn’t automatically shoot an animal for acting normally.
I am indebted to this fine site: http://tchester.org/sgm/lists/lion_attacks_ca.html for the stats.