A fisherman from Washington State has described how he came face-to-face with a cougar at Olympic National Park, and used his wildlife knowledge to survive unscathed despite fearing for his life.
Bart Brown was walking back from a fishing hole, when he sensed something was wrong. "Something just told me to look over my shoulder, and there was a cougar right there… on the edge of the trail," Bart Brown told KIRO 7. "She’s sitting on the edge of the trail,” Brown said. “And when I looked over, I stopped her dead in her tracks, like she slid over a little bit, you know?"
According to Brown, he was "prepared to die", and believed the animal would attack at any moment. However, his knowledge of wildlife safety kicked in, and he was able to intimidate the cougar into backing down.
"It was going to be me or her, right?” he said. “And so I charged her. I charged the cougar. Yes, I did."
He says that the animal continued to stare him down, so he charged again, and it eventually ran off down the mountain.
How to stay safe in cougar country
There are an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 cougars (also known as mountain lions, pumas, panthers, and catamounts) in the US, with their habitats extending across much of the country, so encounters with hikers, trail runners, and backpackers aren't uncommon.
The animals are most active in the early morning and at twilight, so it pays to be particularly careful at these times, and keep your wits about you. Don't walk or run with headphones in and stay aware of your surroundings. According to the National Park Service, you should also avoid heading out alone.
If you find yourself in close quarters with a cougar, standing and making eye contact is exactly the right thing to do. Speaking firmly and waving your arms to make yourself appear larger will help let the cat know that you aren't a prey animal, whereas crouching down will make you look smaller and more vulnerable.
For more advice, see our guide what to do if you meet a mountain lion on the trail.
- Watch wildlife from a safe distance with the best binoculars and monoculars
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).