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Does Bear Spray Work on Mountain Lions? (Mountain Lion Defense)

Yes, bear spray works on mountain lions. The spray can effectively deter most aggressive animals. Bear spray works by irritating the animal’s eyes using capsaicin, an active ingredient that gives chili peppers their heat. A good spray is also useful against mountain lions. Keeping your distance, and giving the animal space is still the best way to avoid an attack.

Mountain lions are dangerous animals. They are powerful predators that can kill humans, and they’ve done so in the past. It’s important to know how to stay safe in mountain lion territory.

Common sense is the best safety measure. Never hike alone, and keep children and pets supervised. Deterring a predator is easier than a conflict with one.

Self-defense tools like bear sprays can also be used on other animals. In case of an attack, you can use bear spray on mountain lions.

In this article, we’ll look at how to stay safe in mountain lion territory, how to defend against them, and much more.

Does Bear Spray Work on Mountain Lions?

Yes, bear spray also works on mountain lions. Using bear spray to fight back against an aggressive mountain lion is generally effective. Most experts agree that bear spray is generally an effective deterrence against carnivore attacks.

Bear spray works just as well on mountain lions as it does on its namesake. Arguably, as felines are easier to scare off than bears, bear spray may be better against them. 

Nevertheless, experts agree that bear spray is effective against mountain lions.[1]

How to Use Bear Spray?

How to Use Bear Spray
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Bear spray is used the same way against all predators, mountain lions included:

1. Practice Safely so You’re Prepared

Use a bear spray canister filled with inactive ingredients to practice at home, or before going on the trail. Knowing how to use it beforehand can save your life.

2. Ensure That The Spray is Easily Accessible

Make sure that you remove all packaging or safety measures to enable access. Keep the pin or clip in until you need to use the spray. Place the spray in an easy-to-reach pocket or even a holster.

3. Using The Spray

Remove the safety pin or clip. Prepare to use the spray. When the animal is about  30 feet away press the trigger with your thumb. You should be aiming slightly below its head. 

Only spray for one or two seconds at a time. Give the animal time to react if it stops charging you. Watch the animal and use the spray again if needed.[2]

4. After Using The Spray

If the animal retreats slowly leave the area without turning your back to it. Back away slowly, even if the animal doesn’t retreat. But keep your spray ready.

Be careful when using bear spray against the wind. While some manufacturers say bear spray can be used against the wind, even a small amount is enough to incapacitate you.

Is Bear Spray the Same as Pepper Spray?

No, bears spray and pepper spray have a couple of differences:

  • Bear spray is stronger with a higher content of capsaicin.
  • Bear spray canisters disperse the substance in a wider cone and further way.

Pepper spray may not be enough to deter a large animal like a bear or mountain lion. 

Is Bear Spray the Same as Pepper Spray

How to Pick the Right Bear Spray

While all accredited bear spray products should work it’s best to look for a few features:

  • Range: You want it to spray as far as possible to keep distance between you and the animal.
  • Cone width: You will want a spray that has a wider cone to cover a larger area. This will mean you don’t need to be pinpoint accurate with it.
  • Volume: If you run into a persistent animal you’ll want as much volume as possible. Get larger canisters as long as you can maneuver them easily.

Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?

Yes, mountain lions are wild animals and efficient predators. They can be extremely dangerous to humans, and they have killed people in the past. Mountain lions don’t generally view us as prey so they avoid us. While they are capable of hurting us, most adults can fight off a mountain lion attack barehanded.

Mountain lions are elusive, powerful predators that stalk their prey before pouncing on it to deliver a killing blow. They are indeed dangerous.

They live all across North and South America, hunting various prey. They regularly take down animals much larger than themselves, such as deer, elk, and moose.

They are dangerous, but more so to deer than to humans. While they can kill humans, they generally avoid us, and most adults can survive a mountain lion attack by fighting back however they can.[3]

Related article: Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?

Are Mountain Lions Dangerous

Signs of Mountain Lions

While mountain lions are elusive predators, they leave plenty of signs behind. They leave tracks in the form of paw prints, scat, fur, and even claw marks on tree trunks. The sounds they make can also alert others of their presence. Knowing where mountain lions are is a great first step in avoiding them.

Mountain lions are sneaky, elusive predators that prefer staying unseen and unheard as much as possible. In spite of their stealthiness, they still inevitably leave some signs behind:

  • Paw prints
  • Gait
  • Scat
  • Fur and claw marks
  • Sounds

Paw Prints

Mountain Lions Paw Prints

Mountain lions have large paws, around one and a half to two and a half inches long. The shape of their prints is similar to those of common cats.

Their prints are made up of four toes and a larger “heel” pad.  Above the large pad, you can notice four round toe prints. The toes aren’t symmetrical because the outside toe is further back than the inside one.

Mountain lions don’t generally leave any claw marks in their prints. They are felines and have retractable claws which they don’t usually use while walking. Sometimes mountain lions leave claw marks when they need to use their claws for more traction.

Related article: Mountain Lion Signs


The gait of an animal is the distance between its steps. Mountain lions have a long gait. Their paw prints are almost identical to lynxes’ paw prints, so their gait is a reliable way of telling them apart.

Mountain lions and most other felines have another common feature of their gait. Felines directly register, which means they step in the same place with their front and back paws. As a result, they only leave one set of prints.[4]


Mountain Lion Scat

Mountain lions use scat and urine when marking their territory. Their scat is generally six to fifteen inches long, either in one piece or divided into multiple segments. They sometimes make mounds of dirt and leaves on which they defecate to create markings.

Fur and Claw Marks

Some other signs of a mountain lion’s presence are fur and claw marks.

Mountain lions regularly rub up against trees and other objects throughout the environment. They frequently shed tufts of their characteristic tawny coat.

Like common cats, mountain lions scratch wood. They use tree trunks and fallen logs to stretch, leave their scent, and keep their claws healthy. As a result, they regularly leave claw marks 


Mountain lion Sounds

Mountain lions make a variety of sounds. They are generally quiet animals, and they try to stay as silent as possible, especially when hunting.

Despite their quiet nature, mountain lions can be noisy sometimes. They are especially vocal around mating time. Both males and females produce some blood-curdling screams as part of their mating ritual.

Preventing a Mountain Lion Attack

The main thing in preventing mountain lion attacks is using your common sense. Things like never hiking alone, and avoiding the wilderness at night are the first steps toward being safe. When face to face with a mountain lion, make some noise, try to appear large, and don’t turn your back or run from it.

Being as calm as possible and using common sense should help you avoid mountain lion attacks. You shouldn’t hike alone or at night, and you should always be aware of your surroundings.

Mountain lions don’t want to meet us either, so even when we run into each other conflicts can be avoided. You need to give mountain lions space to get away from you, so make sure you take the following steps:

  • Don’t run away or turn your back.
  • Face the mountain lion and keep eye contact with it.
  • Do not get closer, give the feline space to flee.
  • Make yourself look larger and make noise.
  • Do not get between a mother and her cubs.
  • You can throw rocks to try and scare the mountain lion.

Most mountain lions will back off if these steps are taken.

Preventing a Mountain Lion Attack

How to Defend Against a Mountain Lion Attack

You can defend yourself when a mountain lion attacks by fighting back with whatever means you have. While they are strong predators mountain lions don’t usually have to fight their prey. Humans can intelligently fight back even without weapons.

If a mountain lion doesn’t back away after the initial encounter, the situation may worsen. While the mountain lion is running toward you or preparing to attack, you have a few options:

  • Use bear spray or mace if you have it prepared. They work on mountain lions too.[5]
  • Use a firearm if you have it at the ready.
  • You can throw rocks at the mountain lion.
  • If you have a self-defense weapon, get it ready.
  • Grab a large branch or a rock to defend yourself.
  • Even if you don’t have a weapon, fight with your bare hands.

When a mountain lion attacks, use all the means at your disposal to defend yourself. Protect your neck and fight back. People are able to fight off mountain lions.


Mountain lions are dangerous predators. Repellents like bear spray also work on these felines, but even if you don’t have any you can still fight back. Deterrence and avoiding attacks in the first place is the best way to defend yourself. Use common sense to avoid dangerous situations, and if you have to fight do so with whatever means you have available.

About Codrin Frunzete

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