Los Ramblas Trail
I love that even though I live less than a mile from the beach I have over 50 miles of hiking/equestrian trails right in my backyard (not counting the neighboring towns' trail networks they hook in to), most of it through wilderness areas. The signs placed every few yards remind us it is active mountain lion country. The photographer in me would love nothing more than to have an opportunity to photograph this beautiful animal in the wild but I will confess that sometimes I get a little nervous when I'm hiking alone, especially if there's been a recent attack or repeated sightings. Chances are you could hike for years in this area and never see this elusive animal, but as we continue to encroach on their territory the sightings have become more frequent and encounters occur more often. Since there was an attack in Norcal a few weeks ago and Whiting Ranch was closed earlier this week until they captured a young 100 pound male who was not afraid of humans and was exhibiting unusual behavior, it's a good time to review some best practices for hiking in mountain lion country.
- It's best not to hike alone. The noise and size of a group seems to deter attacks. Make plenty of noise to avoid surprising a mountain lion.
- Keep children close to you and dogs on a leash.
- Be extra alert at dawn and dusk when mountain lions are most active.
- Don't bend down or crouch. It makes you appear smaller and less aggressive, more like prey, and exposes the back of your neck and your head. If I need to bend down to get something out of my backpack I either put my back against something like a cliff wall if I'm alone or I have someone stand directly behind me.
- If you see evidence of a deer kill, immediately leave the area. Mountain lions usually drag their prey a short distance away from the kill spot and cover it with sticks and leaves, returning to feed on it for several days. Evidence of a kill is a good indication that there is a mountain lion waiting nearby.
- Hiking poles are good to have as they can be used to make yourself appear larger and to fend off an attack if needed.
If you see a mountain lion and it doesn't run away:
- Make sure to give the animal an exit route; most mountain lions want to avoid you just as much as you want to avoid them.
- Make yourself as large as possible; raise your arms, open and raise your jacket, wave a stick over your head.
- Make noise; yell and shout at the lion. Use a whistle.
-If you have small children, pick them up off the ground (without bending over).
- Maintain eye contact and do not run away. Running triggers the chase instinct. Back away while facing the animal.
- Be prepared to defend yourself. Hikers have successfully fended off attacks with sticks and rocks. If attacked try to remain standing and facing the animal.
- The most important thing to remember is to be the aggressor and don't act like prey!