Question asked by US Forest Service Employee
Answered by Gregg Losinski
Retired Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game Conservation Educator
New Education & Communications Specialist for ESER
That video of the recent Utah mountain lion incident was unusual in so many ways, but the one thing it certainly did not show was a cougar stalking a human to kill. The simple fact is that you will almost never be able to spot a cougar stalking you. They are just that good! This female lion was simply defending her kittens, but in a way rarely ever seen. Let alone filmed!
While mountain lions are incredibly powerful and fast, their preferred method of hunting is to stalk their prey and then pounce. The cat in this video was being unusually aggressive. Generally, lions are easily deterred once they realize they are dealing with an adult human. Usually during a cougar encounter simply facing the cat, making yourself appear large and yelling, is
enough to cause the lion to run away. Because the cat was so aggressive this person did the right thing by backing off while still yelling at the cat. When he finally was able to throw a rock, that was enough to make the cat run away. He was wise to not break eye contact with the cat or start to run away.
If you watch this video on YouTube be warned that the language he uses is what you might expect from someone who thought they were going to be killed by a mountain lion. Fortunately, fatal attacks on adults are extremely rare in America. Even though it is called “Bear Spray” it is a good tool to carry when outdoors. It works on anything that has mucous membranes.
- Go someplace outdoors that represents a “thicket.” This place should have areas where students can hide.
- Blindfold one student who will be the “predator.” The predator slowly counts to 20 while the other students, or “prey,” hide. Students who are hiding must be able to see some part of the predator at all times.
- After counting, the predator removes the blindfold and looks for prey. The predator can turn around, squat, or stand on his or her tiptoes, but cannot walk or change location. The predator should see how many students they can find, identify them out loud, and describe where they are. When identified, the prey students move to the predator’s location and wait until the next round to become predators. Make sure the students do not tell the original predator where any of the students are hiding.
- When the original predator cannot see any more students, a new round starts. All of the predators put on blindfolds and stand in close proximity to each other. Each predator has the same motion restrictions. Again, the original predator counts aloud to 20. All the remaining prey must move at least 10 feet closer to the predators. Those remaining prey still remain hidden. Predators remove their blindfolds and take turns naming students they can see.
- Play as many rounds as necessary until only one or two prey students are left. Have the remaining students stand up and identify themselves. The ability to remain undetected and detect others is an example of successful adaptation.
- Conduct the activity one or two more times.
- Discuss what made predators and prey
successful. Were they quiet, clever, camouflaged,
or good listeners?
- Ask the students how they could change to be
more successful predators and prey. Some ideas
that may come out are changing color (clothes),
wearing clothing that does not stick to plants,
being smaller, or climbing a tree.
- Talk about differences between physical and
behavioral changes. Have the students identify
which adaptations related to predators and prey
are behavioral, which are physical, and which
involve both. From Project WILD