“You never know what you can encounter [while hiking],” said Mike Keckler with Idaho Department of Fish & Game. “That’s one of the things that makes [wilderness] so special.”
While we may want to stop and snap a couple of pictures, Keckler says we should be aware of potential dangers – especially when it comes to mountain lions.
“Always be aware of your surroundings, take the time to look around and just be thinking at all times,” Keckler said. “[Wilderness, particularly in the Western U.S.] is prime mountain lion habitat and we should be aware of that.”
While Keckler says attacks on humans are extremely rare, there are several sightings every year. He says the last thing you should do is run away.
“If you see a mountain lion keep your eye on it,” Keckler said. “Turn around, square up and get big. Yell at it and if you can, throw something at it. When I say get big I mean if you have a coat bring it up over your head and make yourself look big.”
Keckler says once the mountain lion realizes this will be a challenge, it will usually back down. Sometimes Keckler says, the animal is just curious.
“It’s not unusual,” said Keckler. “I’ve heard of people yelling at them and have the cat actually sit down and look at them.”
As for dogs who come along for the hike, Keckler says they should always be on a leash to prevent the dog from chasing after the mountain lion. “You don’t want your dog tangled up with a mountain lion, the dog is not going to come out of that well,” Keckler said.
The main message, Keckler says, is don’t be afraid – be aware.