Chances are the exhibit at Montana WILD in Helena is the closest most of us will ever get to a mountain lion, at least that we know of. The big predators are pretty secretive animals who do a great job of avoiding us humans. But what should you do if you run across one of these feisty felines in the wild or in town?
That was a question these Great Falls residents recently had to ask themselves when they found one of the big cats in their house. Luckily, they called authorities and the lion was removed without injury to any person involved, but finding a lion in an urban Montana setting isn’t that strange.
“It’s really rare for mountain lions to attack people," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Communications and Education Division Administrator Greg Lemon said. "But every year we have them in and around our communities, whether it’s Billings, or Helena, or Great Falls. It seems like there are mountain lions that people run into. And as our population continues to spread out, that’s likely to continue to be something of an annual occurrence.”
So what do you do if you see a lion? If you’re in town, Fish Wildlife and Parks urge you to call 911 or animal control and DO NOT approach the cat.
But if out on a trail, Lemon says it’s important to give the animal space and stay calm.
“If you do encounter one that seems to be curious or aggressive it’s really important not to run," Lemon told MTN. "You want to try to get big. If you got a sweatshirt or jacket on you want to open it up, make noise, wave your arms around. If you have pets or kids with you, you want to have your dog under control and have your dog close, bring your kids close. Just be slow and deliberate and loud with your movements but do not run. “
And even though it’s called bear spray, it is also a good deterrent for mountain lions or any other dangerous animal.
So keep a canister handy.
It’s also important to remember that lion attacks on people are very, very rare. But if it does happen FWP recommends not playing dead.
“You want to fight back if you are in the rare circumstance that you are attacked by a mountain lion," said Lemon. You want to respond aggressively, fight hard. Protect your neck and protect your vitals. It’s such an uncommon circumstance, that it’s really not something people have to worry about. It’s just something that people need to be aware of when they are out and about. Just have it in the back of your mind, what you’re going to do if you run into a mountain lion.”