MDC offers mountain lion safety tips

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JEFFERSON CITY– According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the chances of encountering a mountain lion in Missouri is very, very small—almost nonexistent. People, pets and livestock are at much greater risk from automobiles, stray dogs and lightning strikes than they are from mountain lions. However, if you do encounter a mountain lion in the wild, take the following actions. These tips also could be useful to Missourians who travel to states with breeding populations of mountain lions.

• STOP. Back away slowly if you can do so safely. Running may stimulate a cougar’s instinct to chase and attack. Face the animal, stand upright and maintain eye contact.

• DO NOT APPROACH A MOUNTAIN LION, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions try to avoid confrontations. Give them a way to escape.

• STAY CALM. Talk to the cat in a calm, but firm voice.

• DO ALL YOU CAN TO APPEAR LARGER. Raise your arms. Open your jacket if you’re wearing one.

• THROW STONES, branches, or whatever you can get your hands on if the cougar behaves aggressively.

• DO NOT CROUCH DOWN or turn your back on the mountain lion.

• WAVE YOUR ARMS slowly and speak firmly. You want to convince the lion that you are not prey and that you may, in fact, be a danger to it.

• FIGHT BACK if a lion attacks. Mountain lions have been driven away by people who fought back with rocks, sticks, caps or jackets, garden tools and bare hands. A sturdy walking stick can be used to ward off a mountain lion.

• REMAIN STANDING or try to get back up if you are attacked.

• GO IN GROUPS when you walk, hike or bike in states with established mountain lion populations.

• MAKE PLENTY OF NOISE to reduce your chances of surprising a lion.

• KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE and within sight at all times and pick up small children so they won’t panic and run.

• TALK WITH CHILDREN about lions and teach them what to do if they see one.

-Jim Low-