Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks
780 Blanshard St. Victoria, BC
March, 1993

Safety Guide to COUGARS

British Columbians are fortunate to share their province with cougars, one 
of the most mysterious and elusive of all creatures.  The cougar's
habits and astounding predatory abilities   a cougar is capable of killing
270 kg (600 lb) moose   have resulted in a wealth of misconceptions and 
irrational fears.

Actually, most British Columbians live all their lives without a glimpse of

a cougar, much less a confrontation with one.  Conflict between cougars 
and humans is extremely rare.  In the past 100 years, a total of five
have been killed by cougar attacks in B.C. (in comparison, bees kill 
upwards of three Canadians every year).  All but one of these fatal cougar 
attacks occurred on Vancouver Island.  During the same period, there 
were 29 non-fatal attacks in British Columbia   20 of which occurred on 
Vancouver Island.  The vast majority of these attacks were on children 
under the age of 16.  

Although a cougar attack is highly unlikely, it always pays to be prepared.
Information and awareness are your best defenses.  

About cougars
  The cougar, also called mountain lion or panther, is Canada's largest
Cougars have long tails which may be one-third of their total body length.
  An adult male cougar weighs between 63 and 90 kg (140-200 lbs), and a 
female cougar, between 40 and 50 kg (90-120 lbs).  The biggest cougars are 
found in the interior and the Kootenays.
  The cougar's primary prey is deer.  It will also feed on wild sheep, elk,

rabbits, beaver, raccoons, grouse, and occasionally livestock.
  Cougars are most active at dusk and dawn.  However, they will roam 
and hunt at any time of the day or night and in all seasons.
  During late spring and summer, one to two-year old cougars become 
independent of their mothers.  While attempting to find a home range, 
these young cougars may roam widely in search of unoccupied territory.  
This is when cougars are most likely to conflict with humans.

Tracks <graphic of cougar tracks>
  Cougars have four toes with three distinct lobes present at the base of
pad.  Claws are retractable, so they usually do not leave imprints.
  Generally, cougars are solitary.  If tracks show two or more cougars 
travelling together, it probably indicates a female with kittens.

When in cougar country
Cougars primarily occupy the southern third of British Columbia.  Most 
conflict with cougars occurs in rural communities, where people live in 
isolated settlements.  People also encounter cougars while spending 
leisure time in cougar country.

Cougars are predators   the top of the food chain   and their actions are 
often unpredictable.  We have little understanding about what might 
trigger an attack, but following these general guidelines will reduce the 
risk of  cougar conflict and prepare you in the unlikely event of an

Prevention is better than confrontation

Cougars seem to be attracted to children, possibly because their high-
pitched voices, small size, and erratic movements make it difficult for 
cougars to identify them as human and not prey.

  Talk to children and teach them what to do if they encounter a cougar.
  Encourage children to play outdoors in groups, and supervise children 
playing outdoors.
  Consider getting a dog for your children as an early-warning system.  A 
dog can see, smell, and hear a cougar sooner than we can.  Although dogs 
offer little value as a deterrant to cougars, they may distract a cougar
attacking a human.
  Consider erecting a fence around play areas.
  Keep a radio playing.
  Make sure children are home before dusk, and stay inside until after 
  If there have been cougar sightings, escort children to the bus stop in
early morning.  Clear shrubs away around the bus stop, making an area 
with a nine-metre (30 foot) radius.  Have a light installed as a general 
safety precaution.

Your yard and home
  Do not attract or feed wildlife, especially deer or raccoons. These are 
natural prey and may attract cougars.

  Roaming pets are easy prey.
  Bring pets in at night.  If they must be left out, confine them in a
with a secure top.
  Do not feed pets outside.  This not only attracts young cougars but also 
many small animals, such as mice and raccoons, that cougars prey upon.
  Place domestic livestock in an enclosed shed or barn at night.

Hiking or working in cougar country

  Hike in groups of two or more.  Make enough noise to prevent 
surprising a cougar.
  Carry a sturdy walking stick to be used as a weapon if necessary.
  Keep children close-at-hand and under control.
  Watch for cougar tracks and signs.  Cougars cover unconsumed portions 
of their kills with soil and leaf litter.  Avoid these food caches.
  Cougar kittens are usually well-hidden.  However, if you do stumble 
upon cougar kittens, do not approach or attempt to pick them up.  Leave 
the area immediately, as a female will defend her young.

If You Meet a Cougar
  Never approach a cougar.  Although cougars will normally avoid a 
confrontation, all cougars are unpredictable.  Cougars feeding on a kill 
may be dangerous.
  Always give a cougar an avenue of escape.
  Stay calm.  Talk to the cougar in a confident voice.
  Pick all children up off the ground immediately.  Children frighten
and their rapid movements may provoke an attack.
  Do not run.  Try to back away from the cougar slowly.  Sudden 
movement or flight may trigger an instinctive attack.
  Do not turn your back on the cougar.  Face the cougar and remain 
  Do all you can to enlarge your image.  Don't crouch down or try to hide. 

Pick up sticks or branches and wave them about.

If a cougar behaves aggressively:
  Arm yourself with a large stick, throw rocks, speak loudly and firmly.  
Convince the cougar that you are a threat, not prey.
  If a cougar attacks, fight back!  Many people have survived cougar 
attacks by fighting back with anything, including rocks, sticks, bare
and fishing poles.

Cougars are a vital part of our diverse wildlife.  Seeing a cougar should
an exciting and rewarding experience, with both you and the cougar 
coming away unharmed. However, if you do experience a confrontation 
with a cougar or feel threatened by one, immediately inform the nearest 
office of the Conservation Officer service.