I’ve done a lot of hiking on the trails of Northern California, but I’ve only rarely seen a mountain lion. Hiker interactions with mountain lions are rare. but you need to know what to do.
Mountain Lions and Hikers: Northern California
I’ve done a lot of hiking in Northern California, nearly all of it in mountain lion territory. I like to think I’m a perceptive person, aware of my surroundings. I’m not one of those hikers who walks the whole hike nose down, looking at the trail for the exact point of my next footfall. I look, I listen.
Yet the only mountain lion I’ve ever seen on a hike was a dead one. It was in the mid-1970s in the blue-oak hills outside Anderson, California. I was trespassing on a rancher’s spread; perhaps he shot the lion to protect his calves.
Mountain Lion in the Trinity Alps Wilderness
In the mid-1980s I had another sighting. I was driving down a dirt road on the way back from a backpacking trip to Grizzly Lake and Thompson Peak in the Trinity Alps when a lion darted across the road about a hundred feet in front and quickly disappeared.
Hiker Meets Mountain Lion: What to Do
Here’s what I wrote about mountain lion encounters in 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition:
You’ll probably never see a mountain lion; however, they are definitely around and they will see you. General safety guidelines include keeping children and pets close to you. Also be aware that lions are attracted to four-legged prey such as deer; when you bend over or squat, you look more like food to them. If you do see a mountain lion, first pick up any small children. Then shout and extend your arms in a threatening manner, and also throw rocks. You should fight for your life if attacked by a lion. Note that dogs can attract mountain lions, which is a consideration if you want to take your pooch with you.
Alternatively, some people argue that you should run from a mountain lion.
Bears? Seen ’em many, many times. When I lived in rural Del Norte County near the coast of far Northern California, I saw them, heard them, had them rip down my fences, had them climb into my apple trees and break the branches. (And always had to keep my eye on where I was going so I wouldn’t step in the huge piles of bear crap that littered my pasture and the paths up the hill.) But I’ve never seen a live lion while walking.
For recent mountain lion encounters with humans, go to Google, select news, and type in “mountain lions.” Read about mountain lions at Wikipedia.
Have you encountered a mountain lion while hiking in Northern California? What happened?