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Although not commonly seen, mountain lions are widespread throughout Wyoming. They prefer rocky, brushy areas with steep slopes or cliffs and scattered openings in the trees, but in the past few years have been encountered in more marginal habitats, often close to human habitation. Mountain lion tracks are up to 3 1/2inches long. The tracks are distinguished from the coyote, dog, or wolf by a distinctive 3-lobed appearance of the heel pad and the absence of claw marks, since the claws are retractable.
Since mountain lions are normally shy and stay hidden, any time you see one it be considered potentially dangerous. This is especially true if the cat does not leave after he sees you, if he is relatively close, or continually disappears and reappears in different sites. Pay particular attention to the animal's "body language":
1. It is aware of your presence but paying no attention to you, and is at a relatively safe distance (>100 yards). Be extremely cautious. The probability of attack is slight with appropriate actions.Avoid any rapid movements, running, or loud, excited talking. Stay in a group and keep children close to adults so they are not seen as small prey. Change direction to avoid the animal and walk or back slowly out of the area.
2. It has its ears up, is watching you closely, is otherwise obviously attentive to your presence, and is about 50 yards away. This is a potentially dangerous situation. The probability of an attack is unpredictable and must be assumed to be likely. Watch the cat at all times and never turn your back. Hold small children and keep larger children behind the adults. Move to a safer location or one above the lion if available. If not carrying a firearm or bow, look for stick, rocks, or anything else to serve as a weapon and keep it on hand.
3. It is less than 50 yards away, has it's ears laid back, and is staring intensely at you or moves into hiding without any signs of leaving. An attack may occur at any time. Prepare to defend yourself using anything available as a weapon.
Never go out alone. Groups of two or more are less likely to be attacked. If an attack does occur there is a much greater chance of defense.
Keep children near adults. Never let small children hike alone or get out of sight if walking with adults. The small size, rapid and often erratic movements, the higher pitched voice, and instinct of children to run may attractant the lion. If a lion is sighted, have all children move between or behind adults.
Be very careful with hunting dogs and small pets. Dogs may actually serve as "bait" to attract the cats.
Do not intentionally approach a lion. Avoid making the animal feel cornered, trapped, or harassed.
Never run in the presence of a mountain lion. This will trigger their natural instinct to chase.Always stand still, facing toward the cat, and making eye contact.
Make and maintain eye contact. Face toward any cat that you encounter, keep your eyes directly on it, and do not look away until and unless it is gone. (This will not work with bears). It keeps you facing the cat and they prefer to attack the head and neck area from the rear.
Do not crouch, bend over, squat, or lie down. An upright human does not resemble of any of their usual prey, and also appears large. Although it is quite awkward, pick up small children, or find rocks or sticks for weapons, without bending over or turning around.
Appear as large as possible by raising your arms, opening your coat, placing children on your shoulders, standing on a rock, or any other method that is available. Wave your arms above your head slowly and talk in a loud, firm voice to convince the lion you are not prey and may even present a danger to it.
Find or devise a weapon. A stout walking stick or rocks that are at arm height and you don't have to bend over to pick up work well.
Fight back if attacked. Any time a lion is within 50 yards of you, has its ears pinned back,is silently moving toward you, or is attempting to sneak around you, it could attack at any time. This is the time to shoot if you have a gun with you. If it is not, use any weapon available. Throw rocks or sticks, yell,growl, and "smile" to show your teeth. If it does attack, fight back with any means available. Never attempt to "play dead" since lions are not trying to scare you away, they are hunting you as a prey animal. Very few people can actually defeat a mountain lion by hand, but you can hopefully make it decide to go look for an easier meal.