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Cougar Encounters and Safety

Cougars are large and powerful cats native to North and South America and are one of the most widely distributed large mammals in the Western Hemisphere. Canada is no exception! While they may often appear to be reclusive animals, cougars can be dangerous and aggressive if provoked or threatened in our country. Indeed, encountering a cougar can be a frightening experience. Despite the danger and fear, staying calm and taking the correct actions is important. Cougars are large predators, and the situations in which they may become hostile can often be avoided.

In this article, we at totalprepare.ca will discuss how best to prepare for and react to potentially dangerous encounters with cougars.

What is a Cougar?

A cougar, also known as a mountain lion, puma, or panther, is an incredible large cat native to the Americas, including Mexico, Central America, Canada, and some of the southern and western regions of the United States. These remarkable felines can weigh anywhere from 88 to 249 pounds and stand around two to two and a half feet tall, with some adult males growing up to 8 feet in length. Cougars are incredible creatures, their tawny brown fur lightening in color with age and their powerful hind legs allowing them to leap up to 15 feet in a single bound. Not to mention, the physical power and agility of the cougar is second to none as they can sprint up to 40 miles an hour and swim with ease. In addition to their physical prowess, they are incredibly stealthy and are most active during the twilight hours, dawn, and the night. All in all, cougars are an incomparable species of the animal kingdom and remain a wondrous sight to behold in nature.

A cougar standing majestically and looking at the camera for its beauty shot

Why do Cougars Attack?

Cougars are typically an elusive species, but they can sometimes become aggressive and attack humans. Though cougars are typically averse to contact with humans, there are certain conditions that can provoke them into aggressive behavior. Hunger is one of the main reasons cougars attack; as their natural habitats become increasingly disrupted, they find themselves competing for food with humans. Loss of habitat and malnourishment are also other potential causes of attacks. During mating season, cougars can become especially aggressive, and if they perceive a threat to their young, they may attack as a defensive measure. In addition, cougars may also attack if they are sick or injured, as they are unable to hunt or defend themselves. All of these factors can lead to a cougar attacking a human, so it is important to be aware of the potential risks and take the necessary precautions.


How to Avoid Meeting a Cougar

The best way to stay safe around cougars is to avoid them in the first place. Here are a few tips for avoiding cougar encounters:

  • Stay alert in wooded and mountainous areas. Make plenty of noise by talking, clapping, or singing to advertise your presence.
  • Pay attention to cougar warning signs. If you see cougar tracks, scat, or other signs of a cougar, be sure to back away slowly and be cautious of your surroundings.
  • Don’t hike alone and ensure that children and pets always stay nearby.
  • Avoid hiking at dawn, dusk, and night altogether.
  • Keep dogs on a leash. Loose dogs may attract the attention of cougars.
  • If you encounter a cougar, never run. Cougars are fast and running may provoke them to attack.
  • Dispose of food scraps and packaging properly. (Looking for excellent camping meals? Try West Coast Kitchen!)

A cougar mid-gallop

What to Do If You Encounter a Cougar

If you find yourself face to face with a cougar, the most important thing to do is remain calm and avoid eye contact.

  • Make yourself appear as large as possible by extending your arms and spreading your jacket.
  • Make loud noises and don’t move. Shout, stomp your feet, and bang pots together to scare it away without seeming threatening.
  • Stay facing the cougar at all times and if it does not leave, slowly back away. Do not turn your back to the cougar.
  • Fight back if the cougar does attack. If possible, use any items you have on hand such as rocks, sticks, or bear spray.
  • If the cougar still does not leave, throw objects near it while continuing to make noise.
  • After the cougar has left, quickly get out of the area and report your sighting to local wildlife officials.


What About Pets?

If you have pets with you and you encounter a cougar, the same rules apply. Make yourself appear large, stay facing the cougar, and make loud noises. Don’t pick up your pet, as it could encourage a predatory chase. If your pet is attacked by a cougar, try to fight it off with whatever you can find.


What Should You Do After an Encounter?

After an encounter with a cougar, it is essential to take the right steps to ensure safety and to reduce the likelihood of future encounters. It is of utmost importance to remember to report the sighting or attack to the relevant authorities to help with research and safety of the area. Furthermore, it is advised to avoid travelling alone, and to always be aware of your surroundings. In case of aggression, it is important to call the authorities and to take the necessary steps to protect yourself, as well as anyone you may be with. Moreover, it is beneficial to educate yourself on the potential dangers of cougar encounters, as well as the signs of a cougar’s presence and how to react appropriately. Additionally, it is strongly recommended to stay calm and avoid sudden movements if you ever encounter a cougar. By following these tips, you can reduce the chance of a cougar attack and increase safety for yourself and those around you.

A cougar closeup

A Parting Note on Repelling Animals

Finding animals in your camping area can be both a blessing and a nuisance, depending on the type of animal. If it’s raccoons or squirrels, chances are you’ll be able to observe them from a safe distance and appreciate their presence in the nature around you.

But if it’s skunks, bears, or even cougars, an animal repellent can come in handy, so you can deter these animals from coming near your campsite.

Animal repellents are a great way to keep your campsite safe, while still respecting the animals’ space. Here’s a look at some of the best animal repellents and how to use them to ensure safe camping conditions.

If you’re looking for an affordable and effective way to deter animals, then using ammonia is a great option. Ammonia emits a strong smell, which will help to keep animals away from your campsite. The best way to use ammonia for repelling animals is to spray it around the camping area. Additionally, you can also fill a bowl with ammonia and set it away from the campfire, since most animals won’t want to come close to the strong smell.

Another simple and cheap option is to use mothballs. Just like ammonia, the smell of mothballs will help to deter animals, and they’re a great way to keep your camping area safe. The best way to use them is to put a few mothballs in strategic locations around the campsite, such as around the tent, fire pit, and other areas where you’re likely to encounter animals.

If you’re looking for a bit more of a long-term option, then motion-activated sprinklers are a great choice. Motion-activated sprinklers emit a sudden burst of water when movement is detected, which will help scare off animals before they get too close. These sprinklers can easily be set up around the campsite and have the added bonus of providing some extra respite from the heat in the day!

Finally, there are commercial animal repellents available which are designed to be sprayed onto plants and areas around the camping site, in order to keep animals away. These repellents typically contain ingredients such as garlic oil, cayenne pepper, and capsaicin, which are all natural, non-toxic ingredients that will act to repel animals, without causing them any harm.

For the most part, using natural animal repellents is the best choice when it comes to keeping animals away from the campsite. However, if you’re in an area where the wildlife is particularly aggressive, then investing in a commercial animal repellent can be a good move.

By following the tips and advice outlined above, you should be able to keep your campsite safe from any pesky animal visitors. Now that you have a better understanding of animal repellents and how to use them, you can continue to enjoy the great outdoors, safe in the knowledge that you’ve done everything you can to keep the wildlife at a safe distance.



Though cougars are generally reclusive animals, it is important to be prepared for an encounter if it does occur. Preparing for a cougar encounter includes understanding the animal, its habits, and its territory. Knowing the proper steps to take in an encounter is also important. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to remain alert, follow the tips outlined in this article, and remember to report any cougar sightings or attacks. At totalprepare.ca, we hope this article has provided you with the necessary information on what to do if you encounter a cougar. Using the tips outlined in this article will help ensure your safety in cougar territory. Enjoy your camping!


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