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Are Mountain Lions Dangerous? (Do They Hunt People & Pets?)

Mountain lions are dangerous animals. They are strong and efficient hunters that can take down prey much larger than themselves. They generally don’t attack humans but it does happen sometimes. They are effective ambush predators and have killed adults before.

Mountain lions (also known as cougars or pumas) are fierce, powerful hunters and they can be dangerous to humans in certain situations.

They are called “ghost cats” in some regions because of their elusive nature. They don’t like unnecessary contact with other species, including humans.

While they generally avoid us, they can be aggressive if they feel cornered. It’s not a regular occurrence, but mountain lions have ambushed humans before. They are capable of killing a grown man.

Throughout this article, we’ll learn more about the dangers mountain lions pose, how to avoid being attacked, and how to defend ourselves.

Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?

Yes, mountain lions are dangerous. They are vastly more dangerous to prey animals than they are to humans though.  While they are capable of badly hurting, or even killing a human, they generally avoid us. When we run into them, they tend to run away.

Mountain lions are some of the most efficient predators in North and South America. They can catch and kill animals larger than themselves, like moose and elk.

They are highly adaptable and able to hunt whatever they find in their area. Their adaptability is the main reason for their enormous range from northwestern Canada to Patagonia. 

South American mountain lions are more versatile than their northern counterparts.

Mountain lions are also dangerous to humans. They are capable of hurting and even killing us and they’ve done so in the past. 

Thankfully they don’t see us as prey. They avoid contact with humans as much as they can but they will defend themselves when they feel threatened.

Dangerous Mountain Lions

Can Mountain Lions Be Friendly?

Mountain lions are generally not friendly. Wild animals raised in captivity tend to be more docile towards their caretakers than their free counterparts. They grow somewhat accustomed to their owners and can be affectionate around them.

Mountain lions are wild animals. They will never be fully tame, and can’t be domesticated. Because of this, they will never be completely friendly. 

But, domesticated mountain lions are friendlier than usual around certain people.

Mountain lions in captivity, especially ones raised from birth, are much more docile and “friendly” than their wild peers. Thanks to socializing with humans from a young age they grow accustomed to us and can appear tame to a certain degree.

There are cases of people keeping mountain lions as pets. While it is certainly an interesting “pet” to have, it’s not a good idea for most people.

Mountain lions kept and raised as pets grow especially attached to one or two people. They will show affection towards their caretakers and it can even be playful. Even so, they are not inherently friendly animals, and their wild instincts can’t be fully tamed.

“Friendly” mountain lions still need to be treated with the same caution and respect offered to wild ones. Don’t turn your back on them, don’t encourage their aggressive playing, and always keep in mind their unpredictability.

Can Mountain Lions Be Friendly

Do Mountain Lions Eat Humans?

Mountain lions typically don’t eat humans, but it has happened in the past. They usually don’t attack humans, but attacks can result in fatalities. In some cases, mountain lions ate humans that they killed. They can also scavenge on human remains they find in the wild.

Mountain lions rarely attack humans. An even rarer occurrence is them eating us. 

There have been cases of mountain lion attacks that resulted in fatalities though. In a few of these cases, mountain lions have also eaten some of the victims.

While mountain lions don’t generally act as scavengers, they do on occasion feed on carcasses. This has also happened in the past with human remains. 

Presumably, mountain lions that eat human remains are more likely to consider humans prey.

Do Mountain Lions Attack?

Yes, mountain lions attack their prey. They hunt daily and are capable of catching anything from squirrels and rats to elk and moose. They are carnivorous predators, so they need to hunt to survive. 

Mountain lions are carnivores. This means they need to eat meat to survive. They don’t generally scavenge or feed on carrion meat (dead animals) so they need to hunt to get their food. 

Attacks on humans are rare, but they do happen. Pets are more likely to be victims of mountain lion attacks.

Mountain lions are efficient predators. They need to hunt regularly to survive. As adaptable hunters, they hunt anything from smaller animals like squirrels and rabbits to sizable herbivores like elk and moose.


Do Mountain Lions Attack Humans?

Yes, mountain lions attack humans. But it’s not a frequent occurrence at all. They don’t see humans as prey, and they avoid us as much as they can.

Mountain lions can badly hurt or even kill a human. They frequently kill animals much larger than us so they are more than capable.

Mountain lions don’t instinctually hunt humans. If they did, we would be attacked much more frequently. Attacks and fatalities caused by mountain lions are so rare, that you are more likely to be killed by your pet dog or to have an allergic reaction to a bee sting and die.[1]

Do Mountain Lions Attack Pets?

Yes, mountain lions attack pets. Cats and dogs that stay outside at night are especially vulnerable to lion attacks. Mountain lions see smaller animals (including pets) as prey since they can easily kill them.

Mountain lions are powerful predators, able to kill larger animals. Even most large dogs can be killed by mountain lions. 

In a one-on-one fight, mountain lions can kill the dog’s wild counterpart, the wolf.

How Often Do Mountain Lions Attack Humans?

Mountain lions rarely attack humans. There have been 126 recorded cases of mountain lion attacks in the past 100 years. Even if they encounter humans in the wild, mountain lions generally run away unless they feel cornered.

Mountain lions don’t see humans as prey. They are elusive animals that prefer to stay unseen and out of our way as much as possible. 

They usually only attack if they feel cornered and threatened.

Over the last 100 years, only 126 recorded mountain lion attacks have occurred on people. Out of these, 27 were lethal. 

Most mountain lions find humans intimidating. Most human victims of mountain lion attacks are unsupervised children.

How Often Do Mountain Lions Attack Humans
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How To Avoid a Mountain Lion Attack

To avoid mountain lion attacks it’s best to use common sense. If you’re hiking through the wilderness, take at least one other person with you. If you encounter a mountain lion, don’t run. Instead, look at it so it knows you saw it. Make yourself look bigger and make noise. Leave them enough space so they can safely run away.

Using common sense is the best way to avoid mountain lion attacks. Simple things like never hiking alone, not hiking at night, and not approaching a wild animal when you see one.

Mountain lions want to meet us less than we want to meet them. If you happen to encounter a mountain lion make sure you take the safety precautions:

  • Do not run.
  • Keep children and pets close to you.
  • Face the mountain lion.
  • Make eye contact with it.
  • Do not turn your back to the lion.
  • Do not get closer to the animal.
  • Make yourself look larger. (raise your hands, stretch your clothes over your head)
  • Give the mountain lion space to flee.
  • If it’s a mother with cubs, don’t get between them.
  • As a last resort you can throw rocks at the predator.

These steps should scare off most mountain lions.[2]

What to Do if a Mountain Lion Attacks You?

Fight back if a mountain lion attacks you. Many people have successfully defended against mountain lion attacks. Use whatever you can to hit the animal.[3] 

Bear spray can work to keep mountain lions away too.

How to Keep Mountain Lions Away From Your Yard

Mountain lions are opportunists, so you can unknowingly invite them over to your yard. 

Here are a few steps you can take to keep them away:

  • Keep pets indoors, especially at night.
  • Don’t leave food or food waste outside.
  • Don’t invite other wild animals to your yard. Squirrels, raccoons, and even feral cats are easy prey for mountain lions.
  • Secure your yard. Build tight fences without gaps.
  • If you have livestock, clean after it so the smell doesn’t attract as much attention.
  • Keep your livestock secured in covered pens, especially at night. Tall fences are necessary if you can’t make covered pens. Mountain lions can leap over 15 feet so make them really tall.
  • Trained guard dogs can scare off mountain lions.
  • Other deterrents like alarm systems and electric fences can help scare them off.

These methods will prevent most unwanted mountain lion visits.[4]

What Do Mountain Lions Hunt?

Mountain lions hunt other animals. They’re carnivores and predators, so they need meat to survive. They hunt a variety of species, from small ones like squirrels to large ungulates like moose.

Mountain lions are versatile hunters that adapt well to their environments and hunt many different species. They can catch small animals like squirrels and rats as well as large herbivores like elk and moose.

Their preferred prey in North America is deer.

Related article: Mountain Lion’s Diet


Mountain lions are dangerous. They are some of the most effective hunters in their habitats. They hunt a variety of prey, from small rodents to larger mammals like elk and moose. They can even be dangerous to humans. They generally consider us prey, but they have killed humans in the past.

About Codrin Frunzete

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