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Here’s What to Do If You’re Attacked by a Mountain Lion

2 minute read

When a mountain lion grabbed a 4-year-old girl camping with her family in Idaho, her quick-thinking parents successfully scared it off by yelling, causing the animal to drop their child and run away.

The young girl attacked by the mountain lion was mostly unharmed, with just a few scratches, according to NBC News. Madison County sheriff’s deputies killed a mountain lion found near where the family was camping on Sunday.

Such attacks are rare. There are roughly 30,000 cougars in the western U.S., and since 1890, there have been fewer than 100 attacks on humans, with about 20 fatal attacks, according to the Cougar Network, an organization that studies cougars. According to the National Park Service, mountain lions are most often found in areas with lots of prey and places to find cover. On the rare occasion they do attack, they usually target small children.

Although mountain lions generally keep to themselves, it is useful to know how to evade an attack from one. In the event you stumble upon a mountain lion, here are some tips on escaping:

Do not run away
Running may indicate to the mountain lion that it needs to chase you. Stay calm and face the animal while standing tall. Crouching or bending over makes a person look like a four-legged prey animal, so stand upright.

Look and act intimidating
The National Park Service advises that if a mountain lion acts aggressively toward you, raise your arms, open your jacket and speak firmly in a loud voice. Without crouching or turning away, throw objects in its direction.

Fight back if attacked
In the event the mountain lion attacks you or someone in your group, use rocks, sticks, your bare hands or whatever tools are around to fend off the animal. Mountain lions usually try to bite the head or neck, so remain standing while facing the animal.

Hike in groups
Avoid hiking alone and always keep children within sight — remember, mountain lions are more likely to grab children first.

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Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com