Must be cougar week as a dog list serve I'm on had a long thread on this subject. some of the people had a lot of experience with big bears and cats. Apparently unless your gun is loaded on your hip it won't do you any good as the cat strikes to quick to have but a second to react. They strongly suggested a large, sharp, Bowie knife on your hip also at the ready as in close quarters(cat eating you} you can reach your knife. However the best defense is a pack of dogs, one dog is just lunch for a cat no matter how big your dog. However 5 dogs, this was a Ridgeback forum have been quite sucessful in running off a cougar.
And a horse would be lunch for a cat. With the drought out west the predators are hungry!
Yes, I've seen them and more frequently I know from the horse's reaction when they are around. When seen, they are typically trying very hard to get away from me. There are 5 within my 'neighborhood' riding area. One was seen taking down a deer by a couple of mountain bikers. Very cool, wish I'd been there! I have seen recent kills but haven't seen one happen.
What do I do? Keep riding. If it's stalking me, it is not likely to take on a horse with rider unless truly desperate. If it is up above, where it would prefer to be in order to attack, I'm going to think about how quickly I ride off- running away triggers the ol' predator response. But if I think it's not in striking distance, I'll let the horse trot along, he'd like to leave efficiently, anyway! One cyclist did have one jump in the road ahead of him because, well, he was going fast on his bike, seemed like a possible lunch. He did the right thing- stopped and put the bike between himself and the cat- and within moments it gave up and left.
That your neighbors have seen them is no cause for alarm. We've had tracks through the neighborhood, occasionally, for years. They're around and most of the time, do no harm. But I wouldn't keep a dog loose in the yard overnight. A labrador was killed by a cougar not far from me at 3 am a year or so ago. Can't really blame the cat, in a drought they get hungry and thirsty and we have pretty much paved their habitat.
The one note of caution I 'will' offer is that women should not venture, on horseback or on foot, into known cougar (or bear) country at certain times of the month. Blood can be smelled a couple of miles away.
I was in central Oregon last week (live in Alaska) staying with friends who invited me to go ahead, take one of the horses for a run. Duh. They live adjacent to about 10 million acres of federal and state timberland, so can you say 'saddle up and let's go'?
Nice, well trained, young QH (real horse with real bone, none o' them halter fuffies) and we got out on a spanking run through some nice clear cut with lots of visibility, when..... horse does the stop-n-dump (okay, not quite dump, the suede chaps kicked in) snorting like hellfire.
A couple hundred yards away a beeeeee-uuuuu-ti-ful, full grow'd mountain lion was sitting in a dead snag snarling at us. Horse, rider and lion stared at each other for a few minutes (one of us was stupid enough to NOT have a camera along) then everybody went their separate ways. Albeit, the horse spent a couple hours trying to grow new eyes in the back of his head, but we got home just fine, thank you.
What a treat! Gorgeous animal, and when I told the horses' owner what I'd seen, he asked if I knew how rare it was.
They're not known for bothering horses in that part of the world, although the occasional sheep and pooch goes missing
I'll not forget that one for a while. And I see grizzly bears regularly, not that my Alaska horses think THAT'S such a great thing.
When you've been falling/bailing off horses for 40 years, you're really good at it!
On the endurance board (Ridecamp) they suggested you wear a shirt with huge eyes painted (or silkscreened) on it, both front and back. They said it really works! Cats won't strike at something they think is watching them -- they usually hide from sight and only hit when their quarry's back is turned.
That sounds like good and practical advice, but that mental image is just great. Someone with a shirt with two huge-a$$ eyeballs on the front and back. What a fashion statement!
Living in a wildlife preserve the last 35+ years, I have seen several, one chasing a big buck into the yard, another chasing a steer and almost had him down.
People think they are nocturnal, but they are not, they move more with the weather and I guess their stomach grumblings, so you can see them any time.
One good kill may give them enough to eat for a week.
Their territory around here is about 150 square miles per cat and they travel around it about every three weeks.
Some territories overlap, but they are very solitary and try to avoid each other.
We have several shades of tan and one black, that the game warden told us is rare here.
In all these years, we have not seen many, mountain lions are shy.
We learned long ago to keep dogs confined if not with us.
The only time a dog was attacked, while going along with us while we were looking for cattle, it was a doe that came after her from the brush, pawed at her and split her back open.
It looked like she had used a scalpel, the vet that took the 40 stitches it took to close it told us, the cut was so clean.
There used to be a bounty on predators, but since not many people hunt today and we have such an explosion of deer, that are mountain lion's natural prey, they are really getting thick.
Horses, especially yearlings, are also a preferred lion meal.
That means we will be hearing more and more about attacks on pets and people, since we and our pets tend to be handy and easy prey.
Yes! About 10 years ago, I was trail riding alone by Mt. Diablo in northern California, when I heard the dry brush next to the trail rustling. A mountain lion leapt ouf of the brush and into the middle of the trail in front of us, stopped for half a second to look at us, then leapt into the brush on the other side, then was gone. My horse and I had only enough time to halt and look at it while I thought, "Was that a...?!?!?!" I think we both stayed calm and relaxed because there wasn't enough time to realize what it was, plus the lion obviously wasn't interested in us. There had been many bobcat sightings in the same area by other riders at my barn, and they kept trying to tell me that it was probably "just" the bobcat. But I do know the difference between a bobcat and a mountain lion, and that was a mountain lion. Big, tan, no spots, long tail. Mountain lion.
Thanks to all of you. I feel much better now. There is plenty to eat for the mountain lions around here that is not a horse And if the lions did want to take a horse, I'm sure they would choose one of the pair of crippled honies turned out in the field next door, not a horse with rider.
Remember, there was one in a park in So. Cal. (not a mile from me as the crow flies) that took out a mountain biker. Tried to get a second one (a female), but her riding partner beat it off with a rock while some men stood by and watched ...
Best thing is to have a riding buddy.
And, while traditionally shy, they are adapting. I've had them in my yard drinking from a water fountain. Even saw a young one (cub? kitten?) across the cul-de-sac waiting while mom was stalking the neighbor's dog.
Our resident bobcat can be seen mid-day when he's around (he's around when the bunny population explodes). Don't know what's going to happen to all these guys with the fires.
We were hunting a new fixture in McDermott, Nv - big ranch - with the Red Rock Hounds. One of the whips was off by herself, had to pee, got off by a stand of juniper trees. She had the reins one minute, the next minute, the horse was GONE!! She stood up and was pulling up her breeches, turned around and there, not 5 yards away was a mountain lion. They stared at each other for a moment, then he turned and trotted off.
Best we could figure was that he was bedded down under the trees, and she woke him up, otherwise, she wouldn't still be with us!!!
And my friend brought us masks from mexico (brightly painted) for us to wear on our trail rides on the back of our heads. We never did wear them, only ever saw a bobcat out on the trail.
They recommend: try to look big, don't run or crouch down, fight back if you are attacked. I figure if I am riding, I just need to stay on the horse. I don't imagine our local lions would consider a horse as suitable prey, given the eleventy bajillion deer and turkeys around.
I think I am in the same neighborhood as you. I keep looking for that lion, but he hasn't shown himself.
I second the recommendation to not take their "shyness" as an absolute given. I am also in Central Oregon, next to billions of acres of NF and BLM land.
A 13 year old girl was stalked by one on our land, prior to our ownership (quite awhile back, when they could be hunted). Still quite a few years back, our realtor was checking out the lines on his atv, and came up over a hill and a cougar was sunning himself. And in no hurry whatsoever to leave, another signal that in some areas, they are no longer as "shy" as in the past.
Since we've been here, we've spotted tracks, esp. on what I call now the cougar highway - goes from the NF/BLM lands adjoining, across ours, and down into a small but closely populated area, where cats have been seen in trees just outside the homes, and little kitties have disappeared. The cougars come from the billions of acres just to snack (this whole area is otherwise sparsely populated). In fact, earlier this year we had a "first" - dh was at our gate, in the truck waiting as I closed it behind us, and looked left up into the trees - and saw a cat on a limb. wow. So since I was outside the truck, I was probably less than a couple hundred feet from the cat, and had he not seen it, I sure wouldn't have known. The cat did leave the area while he watched. As long as I was already out there, I wish I had seen it too. I saw one running at some distance, recognized the color and the manner of travel (but was too busy calling my dogs closer to watch much!). From past experience, my horses freeze in place, start shivering, and sometimes will blow/snort big if a cat is nearby. So far we've been able to calmly exit the area (they in fact refuse to go in the cat direction, smart horsies), and not run into the cat directly. I have gone back and found fresh tracks and scat where it happened. At this point, I believe they will be fairly steady if all they do is actually see the cat - if it leaps, then all bets off. I think I will exit the horse if I have one coming after us, horrible to think about, but if one ever does give chase, one of us is a goner already.
We also did some fencing a couple of years ago, and the boys asked if we'd mind if they brought their guns along, because they'd been seeing cougar tracks that were following their progress on the fenceline (and the cat scratched trees nearby) over a period of several weeks, so not just one passing by. That said, we have not had any of our cattle attacked ever (knock on wood) or the horses - although a couple nearer to the city did have a horse killed, in a paddock near their house, by a cougar (horrific story). It happened so quickly that they couldn't get from the deck where they were having morning coffee to the paddock near the house in time to prevent it.
Here in Oregon, they can't be hunted in the same ways as in the past, and the cats are taking a bit of advantage of the situation. There are billions of deer/elk here (I run a whole family of deer from my barn every morning, they are sweet), so no one is hungry (I hike my land and adjacent state lands extensively, and find tons of "bone yards". Some pretty fresh, too - and tracks, also fresh). They just are not as afraid.
Make yourself big - do NOT crouch down, make freaking big mean noise if it starts coming towards you. Do not run away on foot, do not run away on your horse. You have to face it down (same for bear) - while that sounds foolish, understand that if the cat is moving towards you, it is announcing its intentions. Shy ones run; aggressive ones with bad things on their mind come toward you, and faster if you trigger their "get the prey" response by running. You ought to at least think through what you will do if you get the odd hairball that has plans for you, as did the one that killed that bicylist that CA ASB mentioned in California.
Otherwise, cherish any encounter where you saw something that magnificent up close and personal, and lived to tell the story. Because that is no longer a complete given in encounters.
If mountain lions can take down full grown elk, they can sure as heck take down a horse. I've seen an ML leave it's half eaten cow elk and that thing is as large if not larger than a horse so a rider is merely incidental.
Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert
I haven't seen a mountain lion, thank God. I saw a program about the female mountain biker that was attacked. I don't know if it was the same one mentioned above.
In that story, there was an abandoned bike on a trail. A male bicyclist stood by it, puzzled. The two women came up, and the other bicyclist left. The two women continued down the trail, and a mountain lion jumped on the first woman, had her behind the neck so she was face down, and started to drag her off. The second lady left her bike and pulled on the legs of the first lady, having a tug of war with the cat. She was amazed at how fast the cat dragged the woman. The cat gave up, and she won. There was no mention of other bikers standing around and watching. The abandoned bike was from a male cyclist that had been attacked and eaten in previous days, and it was assumed the cat realized that was a good place to lay a trap to catch lunch.
Bicyclists would be even more vulnerable than horse riders, since their back and neck are presented to the cats, with their feet tangled up in the bike. Their view is more restricted to forward and down than a rider's as well. Plus, no horse to alert them to the presence of danger. Very sad.
From this and other programs on mountain lion attacks, they stress the importance of fighting back. I think the cats are smart in that they tend to get the humans from the back, so our arms don't bed the right way to defend ourselves. DO NOT GO LIMP, since they will just drag you off. Fight back with whatever is at hand. I honestly have no idea how I could fight a cat if it had me face down. Had I been the other bicyclist, I hope I would have used the bike as a weapon and tried to beat the cat away from the woman instead of engaging in a tug of war. Cat experts say she was lucky the cat didn't pounce on her instead--they have no idea why it gave up, since that is not the normal response to a fight over food.
If I were mounted, I don't know if I could fight the urge to turn and run. I like the idea of shirts with big eyes. I'm wondering if there is a way to make some sort of loud noise to scare the cat that a rider could carry and trigger if spotting one. Like a siren, pack of dogs barking, or cyotes or something. Of course the horse would have to be desensitized to it.
From watching domestic cats hunt, they seem to get confused if the prey sits still (before the pounce, not once caught). It is the wiggling that stimulate the pounce response. Of course, when they are playing, they'll pounce on something that is motionless.
This has been on my mind, because a friend in the DC area was talking about the over population of deer, and she thought that mountain lions would make a good option for keeping the population down. All I could think of was the danger to humans, horses, and pets. She seemed to think the would stick to the deer. No thank you! I'd rather they had controlled hunting--human hunters may occasionally miss the deer and cause other damage, but they won't deliberately stalk a human, horse, cattle, or pet!
I also remember the uproar some years ago when somebody thought they saw couger tracks nearby in PA. Rumors flew, near panic, etc. Finally, a real hunter went and checked it out and it turned out to be tracks left by a cross country skiier. We East Coasters are total wimps when it comes to the idea of being lower than the top of the food chain!