Defense Tactics

I have little experience dealing with wild animals, not that that is necessarily a bad thing. I grew up in Southeastern Wisconsin, in a rural area around a beautiful lake. Harmless deer frequented the woods that surrounded our house, and now and then I checked for deer ticks behind my ears, but other than that, the largest animal that startled me while running was our neighbor’s sheep dog. Sure, there were slow-moving tractors to dodge on the road and a few rude summer tourists walking the lake path, but no lions or bears or rockslides to contend with.  My mid-western upbringing has left me capable of defending myself against ticks, rude humans and large domesticated dogs.

When I moved to Portland, I ran the dark, rainy city streets startled only by raccoons and the local homeless men taking shelter under an awning. I spent nearly 3 weeks backpacking through the Sierra Nevadas with Outward Bound and never once saw a bear.

F grew up in “cougar country” in western Washington. On several occasions he saw cougars in his friend’s neighborhood. While B was living in Colorado, she saw bears poking around in garbage cans as she drove down the street. A friend from college, a native Alaskan, was camping in Alaska with her mom one night. As they were turning in for the night, they noticed a polar bear circling their tent for what seemed like eternity. Her mom had the shotgun poised to defend at any moment.

Bears, cougars, mountain lions, rattlesnakes…they were never a big part of my life and I never felt like I needed to worry about them until now. My friend G wrote to me, “I don’t even know what you do if you run into a mountain lion… adopt a scary posture, gnash your teeth and growl back? Walk sideways away from the conflict???” She’s from the mid-west like me.

I’ve gone long enough pretending that snakes and big cats don’t exist here. It’s time to get trail smart. So, I looked up what to do when face-to-face with a mountain lion and I found this handy brochure by the California Department of Fish and Game. Some key points:

  • Do not hike, bike or jog alone. (Oops, I’ve done that one too many times.)
  • Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active: dawn, dusk and at night. (Hmmm, is that why there were no other hikers or joggers that day I went out early by myself???)
  • Do not approach a mountain lion. (No problem. I’m deathly allergic to cats anyway. You won’t hear “Here, Kitty Kitty” coming from my mouth. Ever.)
  • If you encounter a mountain lion, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms; throw rocks or other objects. (Wait, I need to make eye contact? But I try to avoid confrontation at all times. I hear water bottles are good to throw at them, and since I carry one with me on trail runs, I’ve got something. The other day I was tempted to pick up one of the fallen rocks to have just in case. F likes to whoop and holler like a wildman when he’s trail running. He claims that frightens away the mountain lions. I think he just likes to yell.)
  • If attacked, fight back. (I’ll try.)

My defense plan: cross my fingers and hope I never have to fight a mountain lion.

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3 responses to “Defense Tactics

  1. Yikes…I get a stomach ache just thinking about that…I’d be no help that’s for sure.

  2. You are obsessing 🙂 However, since you have now freaked me out I suggest that we trail run together once the no running famine of kids on Christams Break resolves. 🙂

  3. I am with ya babe. I saw one on More Mesa in the spring and slowly backed away and ran the other direction shaking. Hearing girlie seeing one so close to her has sent me in alarm. I mean, my face ain’t perfect, but I like it. No scratches from felines please. I ran this morning on MTN Drive and was freaking the whole time (won’t do it again) because I kept envisioning a cougar pouncing from trees. you’d think that would quicken my pace, but it didn’t. I ran the slowest ever. Hmmmm……

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