What is the possibility of being attacked by a mountain lion?

by Ron Gilliam, resident of Lewis County, Kentucky
(Lewis County Kentucky)

Mountain lion - photo added by Michael - photo by Beyond the Trail [Gary] (Flickr)

I spend many hours in the hills and woods, especially in the Summer. Several of my neighbors have seen two large black cats, for four or five years, in this area (Beechy Creek). They seem to have a home base in a vacant barn, located on a deserted mountain top.

Also, I have family members, who have spotted a large black female cat with small cubs, crossing a creek in the vicinity of Laurel Road and Tar Fork. On another occasion, they saw a pair of large black cats, a male and female, in the same area.

Recently, I have found very large cat tracks close to my home. This concerns me because they are too large to be mountain lions.

Several mountain lions have lived in this area, for many years. It is not uncommon to see them near Kinnconick creek near Camp Dix and Laurel.

They seem unafraid of people and will walk along edges of grassy fields. What is the possibility of being attacked by one of these large cats?

In the last twenty or so years, Eastern Kentucky and maybe all of Kentucky has been repopulated with coyotes, wolves, wild turkeys, bears, and large cats. Bobcats were always here. Few people go into the woods now, without a gun. It has dramatically changed the area.


What is the possibility of being attacked by a mountain lion? to Mountain lion tracks

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What is the possibility of being attacked by a mountain lion?

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Nov 11, 2010 Black cat sighting in missouri
by: Sarah Johnson

We moved to a rural location last year, and I first spotted a large black cat in a tree in January 2010. It was only about 100 yards from my home (which is surrounded by woods), and we had eight inches of snow on the ground at the time. The cat leapt out of the tree and ran off. I then spotted it a month later running through a field into the woods as I rounded a bend on our 1/2 mile driveway. Finally, I saw it in March under the same tree, and I watched it walk along an open pasture area behind our house. This was in broad daylight, about noon. I watched it pounce on a rabbit and slink off over the hilltop with the rabbit in its mouth. I was actually able to snap about 10 photos, but because of the distance, they are grainy when you zoom in.

It seemed to leave the area when the weather turned warm in the spring, but just this past week, I discovered a large paw print in the mud in my front yard. I took photos and measured it - it's 5 inches from tip to tip. My 95-pound Rottweiler's print is only 3 inches.

My question: Is this possibly a mountain lion or a panther? The cat I saw is most definitely BLACK, has a long tail, and appeared to be the size of our dog. Like Ron's comments, it does not appear to be afraid of people and was not concerned to be in a field in the middle of the day just behind our house. Also like Ron, this print seems larger than a typical mountain lion print. What could this thing be, and should we be concerned? We have two young children who play outside in the woods frequently.


May 05, 2010 Rare
by: Michael

Thanks, Ron, for visiting and asking. I can only quote the reliable sources that I use. Some people, I think, like to use the possibility of an attack to hunt and kill the cougar. Mountain lions attack livestock, another reason to kill the animal. Yet the overall percentage of losses of grazing livestock to total population is very small indeed. There are better ways to deal with this problem (our problem).

As to your question (I changed the title, I hope you are OK with that), it is said1 that "Pumas rarely pose a direct threat to humans. Compared with the similarly sized leopard, this cat is a gentle retiring animal that almost never attacks people..."

The records of attacks bear this out - there have been very few indeed.

Records of mountain lion attacks in the USA and Canada between 1890 and 1989 show a total of 36 attacks, 11 of which resulted in the death of the person. However most of the victims were children (79%). Of the 15 cats that attacked mostly children, 12 of them were underweight or sick.

So we have sick cats attacking children but extremely rarely.

I agree that the "no fear of humans" mentality is concerning, however. This is brought about as more people settling in remote areas.

The advice as I have seen it states that using the correct techniques a mountain lion can be seen off without it being killed and without the person being hurt. That must be the best outcome.

If I was walking in the mountain lion habitat, I would take care, yes, but learn the techniques to protect myself (excluding shooting it) and if I had children to educate them accordingly and to keep them close by to supervise them.

See mountain lion attacks.


1. Wild Cats Of The World by the Sunquists - the premier book on the wildcats.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • What are the chances of being attacked by a Mountain Lion? This isn't exactly easy to answer. Under normal conditions, slim to none. Humans aren't on the preferred Cougar menu. Fortunate for this, because no large cat is stealthier. A better answer would be it depends on the cat and the location. I live in Western Washington, where we have many, and they grow much larger than normal. But we also have plenty of food. An old cat that can't hunt, or a juvenile that is orphaned and isn't good at it should be avoided at all costs. Same applies to a mother with young. All others are almost friendly to humans. Just remember that any cat over 50 pounds is probably 40 times stronger or more than a human.

    In regions with less food, like Nevada, these rules will change. Fortunately, the cats are smaller. Cougar are listed as topping out around 160 pounds, which reflects on where authors usually live. You can find them up to 250 pounds here. For the most part, I wouldn't worry about it. If one puts you on the menu, you'll never know anyway. I doubt there has been more than 50 attacks since 1900. Does that help?

    • Thanks Tim for taking the time to pass on your knowledge. Much appreciated. As you say cougar attacks are so rare they can almost be forgotten about. Attacks by domestic dogs are far more common and can equally dangerous I would say. One aspect of this is that the cougar is quite a shy cat. It has domestic cat qualities and can be domesticated. It does not want to attack people unless the circumstances are exceptional. I hope people can continue to successfully live in harmony with it despite human population growth. Historically, the human pushes out the wild cat.

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