Do mountain lions eat humans?

Do mountain lions eat humans? The answer is 100% No in the context of attacking a human to eat the person, in my view but I am open to disagrement. It has never happened as far as I am aware and I don’t believe that it will happen. The mountain lion is quite retiring and tends to avoid humans. Extremely rarely there have been attacks on humans by mountain lions but usually a child is involved and the attack was not to eat the child. Have you ever heard the phrase, “man-eating mountain lion” – no, nor me. We hear, in the history books, of man-eating tigers, leopards and lions but not mountain lions.

Mountain lion P-22 recovering health after being poisoned with rodenticide.
Mountain lion P-22 recovering health after being poisoned with rodenticide.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Attacks are so rare that people are far more likely to be attacked by their own domestic dog that attacked by a mountain lion. The risk is so small as to be almost insignificant although people should naturally take precautions especially with respect to their children when and where appropriate.

I suspect that the question in the title has been asked by a young person perhaps a child. In which case it is a fair question but if you know mountain lions you will know that the are not the sort of animal to attack and eat humans.

In fact, is probably fair to say that even the big wild cats (leopard, tiger, lion and jaguar) do not attack humans to eat them or extremely rarely do so. Attacks on humans are relatively, very rare and usually because the big cat is injured and unable to attack large prey or its prey has been decimated because humans have hunted its prey.

Very few animals of any species wish to eat humans. I can think of crocodiles and sharks which occasionally attack and eat humans. On the top of my head and without looking it up I can’t think of any other animal that wishes to attack, kill and eat a human (a shoal of piranhas perhaps). Some animals may attack but humans are not a natural prey of many wild animals. The human is certainly not on the mountain lion’s menu.

For the sake of completeness because the question does include all situations, I suppose if a person on a trail died and a hungry mountain lion came across his corpse the cat might eat it. The dead person would be carrion. However, that said, I can find no reference to mountain lions eating carrion in the world renowned book: Wild Cats Of The World except on one occasion a trapper was sleeping in the wilderness and when he woke up he was covered in leaves placed there by a mountain lion as if he was dead prey. He was not eaten. He shot the cat.

9 thoughts on “Do mountain lions eat humans?”

    • They are quite shy like cheetahs and both mountain lions and cheetahs have been tamed to a certain extent. They are less aggressive than the other large wild cats, it seems, towards humans.

  1. Human encounters with mountain lions are rare and the risk of an attack is infinitely small. You are more likely to drown in your bathtub, be killed by a pet dog, or hit by lightning. If lions had any natural urge to hunt people, there would be attacks every single day. Instead, they avoid us.

    Mountain Lion FAQ and Facts – Mountain Lion Foundation

  2. Interesting…

    My own opinion is that any big cat would consume humans only out of desperation if their was some sort of shortage of their preferred prey. It’s conceivable, especially in areas common to hunters who kill off rabbits, deer, etc.

    There really are very few animals that kill and consume humans. There is only one confirmed entity that kills and consumes humans without provocation and not hungry, and that is the shark.

    • Scientists see most shark attacks as mistaken identity.
      Man gets eaten when he looks like prey. The straggler in a hiking group becomes the wounded deer. If you run from a predator you will engage the prey drive. Although I recommend if the attack is inevitable you give that option your best shot. The majority of humans that end up on the smorgasbord are engaging in prey behavior without knowing it. I am of course not counting the idiots who think they just have to get a better look. That’s just nature taking it’s course.
      And never venture into the desert, mountains or wooded areas without your can of bear spray.

  3. They most certainly do see humans as prey. And have eaten them.
    While the most common cause of putting humans in the light of prey is shrinking territory. They are alpha predators much the same as Tigers. They can and will learn to adapt to the prey in their territory. Why chase a deer when the human is easier.
    It’s not about making the animal look bad. It’s humans encroachment and the inevitable depletion of resources. Human predation is influenced by the animals incapacity to hunt stronger prey and availability.

    • Are you sure? I think you are wrong. Of the very few attacks on humans by mountain lions over the past 100 years – I think it is about 18 attacks – on no occasion has the cat eaten the individual. There is nothing in the books about mountain lion man-eaters.

      Yes, if all their normal prey was killed off by humans they’d have to prey on humans but that will never happen because they have a very wide range of prey items.

      • California had one very bad case where the cougar took a bicyclist off a narrow trail. Later discovered another victim. It was very much prey behavior. In this case a young animal without territory.
        To agree with you I don’t think this was the cat getting up and saying lets go eat a human. It was triggered by prey drive. In the case I mentioned the lone person on a Mt. bike going past an area it was stalking.
        Not exclusive to cougars but including bears and in one very well documented case a wolf attack the trigger was again prey drive. With the wolf it was triggered by human stupidity. Ear buds. Unaware of the wolves tracking her on the road they became emboldened and hunted her. Sans tuning out to her surroundings she would have most likely had time to take defensive action. By tuning out she continued to jog triggering the prey drive.
        While rare for predators to target humans it’s a bad idea to think they won’t or that you are really the top of the food chain as you walk down that lovely mountain trail.
        I’m not being contrary with you. We have big cats just a few miles from here. You don’t walk in fear on the trails but you most certainly don’t think they can’t or won’t. At the end of the day meat is meat. Rule of the wilderness, don’t look like a snack.


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