Mountain lions are the most secretive of creatures. By nature, they are generally much more aware of what’s going on around them than other animals, especially people. However, there are couple major clues one should keep in mind that can warn you of their presence – deer vocalizations and cat sounds.
Mountain lions scare the poop out of deer, much more so than anything else. Lion presence will cause deer to snort, stomp and even scream. On one occation I was still-hunting during the archery season in California’s Snow Mountain Wilderness. It was first light and I was walking on a dusty trail that traversed through a burn.
It was probably a two year old burn and the brush was several feet tall. It held lots of ceanothis that was very attractive to blacktail deer. I remember being surprised that I was seeing no deer and this was prime habitat and prime time.
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, deer began to snort on the hillside above me. The deer were panicking and I could hear them running too and fro with no particular logical explanation. The were upwind of me so they could not scent me. I stood motionless and silently waited while attempting to understand what was going on.
Standing in a slight drainage, I caught sight of something moving in my direction. At about fourty yards I recognized that is was a square faced male lion walking in a semi crouched position and it was coming directly at me.
Mountain lions have the ability to hide and walk at the same time and this was the best example of it I’ve ever seen. Almost moving like a snake down the hill, the cat was unaware of my presence. It was unknowingly going to walk directly into me.
At 30 yards I grew concerned. The tom still had no idea of what was about to happen. At 25 yards, something had to be done because I didn’t want to find out how the lion would react inside of 20 yards. Finally I broke my silence and spoke to the cat – something stupid like “OK kitty that’s close enough.”
The lion jumped into a brush pile about five yards away. Now, still 20 yards from my position, the tables were turned. The cat could see me, but I could no longer see him. In the deafening silence, I concluded it was time to exit. I walked slowly down the trail, keeping my eyes on the bush putting distance between me and the cat.
The later behavior was more consistant with typical man-lion encounters.
However, lions sometimes give themselves away. That’s a story for another day.