Rafters fend off attacking mountain lion by beating it with paddles

Mountain lion
(Image credit: Getty)

Officials are warning explorers in Arizona to beware a dangerous mountain lion that attacked a group of people camping in the White Mountain Apache Nation last week.

The group were taking part in a multi-day rafting expedition, and had settled down for the night at the edge of the Salt River when the animal approached their camp and attacked a 64-year-old man.

According to Gila County Animal Care and Control, about 10 people came to the victim's aid, hitting the mountain lion with paddles to scare it away, while the rest boarded their rafts and headed downstream to safety. Local news site Arizona's Family reports that the man is receiving medical treatment for his injuries, and is now doing well.

Gila County Animal Care and Control, San Carlos Game and Fish, White Mountain Apache Tribe, and Arizona Game and Fish have all stepped up their surveillance in the area, and officials are using dogs to help search for the mountain lion, which is still on the loose. 

Mountain lion safety

Attacks by mountain lions (also known as cougars, pumas, panthers, or catamounts) on humans are rare, but can happen if an animal feels threatened, or mistakes a person for a prey animal. Only last week, a Colorado man was attacked by a mountain lion while relaxing in a ground-level hot tub. It's believed the mountain lion may have seen only his head, and mistaken it for a small animal.

If you're exploring a mountain lion habitat, it's important to make sure you're aware of your surroundings at all times. That means actively looking and listening, and not using headphones while hiking or running. It's safest to travel with others, and avoid heading out at dawn or dusk when the animals are most active.

If you do come face-to-face with a mountain lion, you should resist the temptation to run, which can trigger the animal's instinct to chase. Instead, stay calm and back away slowly, letting the animal believe it's in charge of the situation and you are backing down.

For more advice, see our guide what to do if you meet a mountain lion on the trail.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 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), usually wearing at least two sports watches.