When Lions are Near

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.

5 thoughts on “When Lions are Near

  1. Yes, quite a few stories – mostly because I archery hunt and still hunt a lot. Never seen a lion while glassing for deer, which seems strange.

  2. Recently I was staying at my cabin in the Seely Montana area and I looked down the path to see what looked like a golden colored dog sitting in the path. Once the animal started to move down the path in my direction I noticed it moved like a cat. It was definatly not a dog. It had a tail the resembled a mountain lion. I tried to get a closer look by positioning myself up higher on our deck stairs. I saw the cat moving in a croutched down position up the neighboring cabin stairs. I cannot think of another animal in Montana that this could have been other than a mountain lion, but I was very confused knowing lions would rather avoid people. This animal was out at 5 o’clock (daylight) sitting in a wide open path climbing up the stairs of a lake house. The animal was about the size of a medium sized dog. Does it seem like this was an actual mountain lion or is there another animal it could be that I have not considered yet?

  3. Lindsey: This definitely sounds about right for a mountain lion. Walking while crouched is one definite give away. Although lions are secretive, they also can make surprise appearances. While on my ATV, I’ve had them walk in front of me at 20 yards, stop and glare at me and then walk off in that slinky movement, seemingly without fear.

  4. I have had mountain lions show up during archery elk season. They have a tendency to show up to the cow/calf calls. The bad part is their stealth ability. One friend of mine said he was calling, and suddenly got the strange feeling someone, or something was watching him. He sat still for a while, when he saw something move to his left. He realized what he saw was a mountain lion. The lions tail was twitching back and for about ten yards away. My friend put down his bow, and unholstered his 44 mag. He then started making noise, but the cat stayed there. He finally picked up a fist sized rock and threw it at the cat. This did the trick, and the cat disappeared. A little too close for me.

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