Wildlife Safety: Cougars & Bears


Do you think you could stare down this Cougar in the wild? or would you crumble and run? What if I told you starring down this big Cat could be the difference between you being his lunch and staying alive. Then do you think you would have what it takes?

Let’s face it. If you’re spending a lot of time in the mountains chances are your going to run into some type of dangerous animal sooner or later. It is always better to be prepared then caught off guard right? When you’re planning a trip to the mountains be sure to take into consideration what type of wildlife you might be running into depending on your destination.

With today’s post I’m going to approach two larger Mammals that can be found in a widespread area in North America. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the Mountains then you could most likely run into a Bear or a Cougar. Depending on your location you could even run into a Grizzly. However for most of the lower 48 states you’re chances of running into a Griz over a Black Bear are a lot less likely unless your in a select few areas.

Cougar Encounters:

Depending on where you live Cougars can go by many names: Puma, Mountain Lion or a even a Panther. Chances of running into a Cougar in the mountains are pretty high as they range from the Canadian Yukon all the way to the southern Andes of South America. In North America they pretty much run all the way through the Rocky Mountains. The cougar covers more area in the Western Hemisphere than any other large Wild Mammal. So pretty much you can run into a cougar anywhere in the Western part of the United States, all the way down through Mexico and into South America. Here is a map that shows the Cougars range:


6 steps to take into consideration if you ever have a Cougar encounter:

  1. Don’t Run – If you run it may trigger a chase response in the Cougar and you definitely cannot outrun a Cougar.
  2. Face the Cat – Appear aggressive and large while waving your arms or your jacket and always maintain eye contact.
  3. Slowly Back Away – Never turn your back on a Cougar!
  4. Throw Things – As long as you don’t have to bend down and pick things up.
  5. Shout – As Loud as you can at the Cougar.
  6. Fight Back – If a Cougar gets too close then be aggressive and whack him with any type of trekking poles or sticks. If you appear as a strong predator instead of a prey then the Cougar will likely back down.

Bear Encounters:

If you’re in the lower 48 then your chances of running into a Black Bear over a Cougar will be a little less likely. However it just depends on your location. For example if you’re in the backwoods or in the Rocky Mountains then your chances of running into a Black Bear could be just as high as a Cougar. But if you’re in Alaska or in Canada your probably going to run into a Bear over a Cougar and possibly even a Grizzly. Here is a map that shows you a Black Bear and Grizzly Bears range:

Black Bear Range


Grizzly Bear Range


8 steps to take into consideration if you ever have a Bear encounter:

  1. Don’t Run – Remain calm. Running may trigger a chase response in the Bear and you cannot outrun or outclimb a Bear.
  2. Speak Softly – To let the Bear know you are Human.
  3. Don’t make direct eye-to-eye contact – If you do this the Bear may interpret you as a threat.
  4. Make yourself look bigger – Hold your arms out or your jacket open.
  5. Move slowly upwind.
  6. Lie down and play dead – Only if the Bear bluff-charges you.
  7. Fight Back – Worse case scenario if the Bear attacks you. You want to appear as an aggressive predator instead of prey. Use Bear spray only if the bear is charging and withing range.
  8. Your best defense is avoidance – Avoid surprising Bears. Be alert of Bear signs (Scat, Tracks, Dug-up Soil).


As you can see some of the steps with a Bear and Cougar encounter are very similar. However a few things are dramatically different and may even be CRUCIAL to life or death. Like eye-to-eye contact and speaking softly verses loudly. Judging by these two dramatic differences you can definitely see a personality difference between these two great Mammals. Cougars you can get away with being a little more aggressive. Looking them in the eyes and making loud noises etc. However if you do this to a Bear then your lunch meat!! You need to be more humbling and not appear so threatening by speaking softly and not looking them in the eyes.

Taking these two KEY differences into consideration with your next Bear or Cougar encounter could mean the difference between life or death for you and your outdoor partners. Nonetheless in every situation having the proper knowledge and understanding of animals in the wild and their personalities is very important and can always make your outdoor experience with wildlife more pleasant.

%d bloggers like this: