There are two things I don't want to encounter when hiking. One is a mugger, the other is a cougar. Bears I'm not worried about, because I'm told they care. Besides, it was the recent cougar attack on a sweet little girl that got me wondering... What would I do if I encountered a cougar? What should I do?

Do Cougars Live in the Northwest?

They do. And they may occasionally wander into your neighborhood. After all, they were here first.

Is a Cougar a Big Cat?

Yes. And no.

"Big cats" roar, and cougars can't roar. However, they do purr like a cat. But academics will tell you that cougars belong to a species called Puma concolor.

Are Cougars Dangerous?

Cougars are predators, and if you look like food to them - or they feel threatened by you - they can be deadly.

Are Cougar Attacks on Humans Common?

Cougar attacks are "rare", but they do happen. Keep scrolling.

When You Say Rare... How Rare is a Cougar Attack?

According to Wikipedia (and several other sources I've seen), "a total of 126 attacks... have been documented in North America in the past 100 years."

Out of 126 Cougar Attacks on Humans, How Many Were Fatal?

27 of the 126 cougar attacks cited were fatal.

Have There Been Any Recent Cougar Attacks?

  1. Yes. A little girl in Fruitland, Washington was attacked and wounded by a cougar in May of 2022.
  2. A dog gave it's life rescuing her owner in California, also in May of 2022.
  3. A Seattle Mountain Biker was killed, another injured, in 2018.

So "rare?" I guess cougar attacks are rarer then other causes of injury or death, but they are happening.

What Should I Do if I See a Cougar in the Outdoors?

Photo: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Photo: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Nothing. That's where it lives.

What Should I Do if I See a Cougar in the City or the Suburbs?

Report it. Call 9-1-1, or the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife at 360-902-2200.

What Should I Do if a Cougar Sees Me?

  1. Don't run
  2. Maintain eye-contact
  3. Back away slowly
  4. Raise your voice (if cougar is acting aggressive), speak firmly; with authority
  5. Make yourself look bigger; head up, shoulders up, arms raised

What Do I Do if the Cougar Attacks Me?

Grab every sharp stick, branch, rock, etc. that you can and throw it at the cougar. It's survival time; man vs nature.

How Can I Tell if I'm About to Be Attacked by a Cougar?

According to the Western Wildlife organization, the following behavior from a cougar means an attack is imminent:

Ears flat, fur out; tail twitching; body and head low to ground; rear legs “pumping."

How Can I Stay Safe When Hiking?

  1. Travel in groups.
  2. Be noisy; let animals know you're coming. Most prefer not to engage with humans.

A final piece of advice: always be aware of your surroundings, you never know what's out there; a cougar, or a mugger.

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