Mountain lions are beautiful, intimidating felines that roam the backcountry across the United States. According to the U.S. Forest Service, mountain lions live typically in steep, rocky canyons and mountainous terrain, but they can be found in deserts and on the coast. Generally, they do not inhabit elevations higher than 10,000 feet.
However, with more people hiking on trails, camping in the mountains, and developing land, mountain lions and humans have started to clash. Sightings are frequent, and attacks do happen from time to time. Still, humans aren't usually the ones going head-to-head with mountain lions. Instead, our pets are facing the consequences of our increased interactions with wildlife. Whether Fido is hanging in the backyard or sniffing along a hiking trail, they're at risk for encounters with cougars, coyotes, bears, and other large predators. Pet owners often wonder: Will a mountain lion attack a dog? And, if so, will their dog survive? Here's what you need to know.
Will a Mountain Lion Attack a Dog?
The short answer: Yes, a mountain lion will attack a dog. Anything that enters a mountain lion's habitat is considered prey for the large felines. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) says it's not likely for mountain lions to attack although wildlife officials do get reports of it occurring.
According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, a dog can easily be mistaken for prey. Even though their favorite food is deer, they don't see the same way people do. Cougars see shapes and movement. So when a dog is running around a trail, mountain lions may give chase, thinking it is some tasty prey. Generally, they will avoid humans. To protect your dog on the trail, keep it on a leash and close to you.
However, mountain lions prefer to avoid people altogether. A Southern California study of collared big cats showed that people on trails came close to mountain lions and never knew they were there. Researchers also said there were "no reports of aggressive lion behaviors." The wild animals left people alone.
Can a Dog Survive a Mountain Lion Attack?
Mountain lions are stealthy in their attacks and try to disable their prey quickly. When a cougar attacks a dog, it generally goes for sensitive areas such as the head and the neck, making the chances of survival difficult to predict. They will also attack small dogs, which can look like prey. If a dog does survive a mountain lion attack, pet owners may have massive vet bills on their hands.
Still, some large dog breeds might be able to take on a 130-pound-plus mountain lion—or at least get it to back down. Guardian dogs are used to protect flocks from predators and have a higher likelihood of fending off mountain lion attacks. Most of the time, they bark or haze predators, keeping them at bay. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, dogs such as the Great Pyrenees, Komondor, Kangal, and Akbash are a few examples of guardian dogs that could take on a mountain lion. They are also useful in keeping coyotes and other predators away from homes, farms, and livestock.
Watch the Craziest Mountain Lion Attacks on Dogs
1. Mountain Lion Drags Dog Out of House in Santa Rosa
Mountain lion in Santa Rosa, California drags dog out of house #SantaRosa #MountainLion #dog Some #SonomaCounty residents are concerned about mountain lions after one lion entered a house, attacked a dog, and dragged the dog by its neck into the backyard. The attack happened last week when a #BennettValley resident left her sliding glass door open. The #cougar targeted a #bordercollie inside the house and the homeowners heard a commotion. Video sent to #KRON4 shows a snarling mountain lion standing over a motionless dog. A #sonoma County family said the mountain lion killed two animals on their property and then attacked their dog. The big cat was caught on camera by #RebeccaKracker the Monday after #Thanksgiving at her home in a more rural part of Santa Rosa. She said she heard one of her dogs, Sherman, cry out then saw the mountain lion dragging Sherman away. She first called her cousin, who fired a gun that scared away the mountain lion. Then they retrieved the dog who, surprisingly, was not seriously hurt. But, they say, the mountain lion kept coming back. During that time, she said the mountain lion killed two #goats in their barn. Kracker said #StateFishAndWildlife gave her guidance, and a local animal group #LivingWithLions told her it has been tracking this 16-year-old lion. They also said while the older cat was still strong, it had lost most of its teeth. Two days later, a trapper connected with the wildlife agency came and killed the lion. Kracker said she felt sad about it.
In 2022, a mountain lion dragged a dog out of its home, shocking the pet's owner. The homeowner told the local news station that the cougar grabbed the border collie by its neck after walking into the home through an open sliding door. The owner, Rebecca Kracker, called for help from her cousin, who scared the predator away by firing a gun. The dog was retrieved, and it miraculously did not sustain any major injuries. However, the big cat killed two goats on the property in addition to attacking the dog. When asked about the incident by KRON4, Living With Lions principal investigator Dr. Quinton Martins said that there was "clearly something wrong with [the lion]." He wrote to the outlet that the lion was old and her violent behavior may have been due to declining health.
2. Famous Hollywood Mountain Lion Attacks Dogs
You'd think mountain lion sightings in the Hollywood Hills would be cause for concern, but it wasn't in the case with a famous lion known as P-22. People looked forward to seeing him grace the hills, and he always kept to himself. P-22 was arguably one of Southern California's most famous mountain lions and was tracked by the National Park Service via a GPS collar. His sudden attacks on dogs walking with their owners in the park made headlines for weeks. After he attacked a Chihuahua, wildlife officials were able to track P-22 down, tranquilize him, and take him to get checked out by biologists. Unfortunately, the aging cougar was euthanized after it was determined he was "suffering from multiple severe injuries and chronic conditions."
3. Bulldog vs. Mountain Lion
This pup's harrowing experience with a mountain lion was captured on a trail camera. The unsuspecting bulldog walks out to its backyard, but quickly realizes something is off. While the video is a bit dark, you can make out two glowing eyes behind the pup. The dog cranes its neck to the left, sniffing in the air. It turns right as the mountain lion pounces. In the end, the fierce pup manages to scare off the lion.
4. Mountain Lion Attacks Dog, Owner Steps in
Warning: This video gets a little intense. The clip opens with a mountain lion running up on a beige dog while chased by a brown pup. The mountain lion doesn't seem to care about the brown dog as it launches onto the beige pup, grabbing its neck and wrapping its legs around its body. The brown dog continues to bark at the lion to no avail. The next thing you see is the owner running up, hitting the cougar with a stick or a pole, trying to get it to let go of the dog. However, the video doesn't show what happened to the dog in the end or if the owner was ever able to get the large predator to release its hold.
5. Mountain Lion Grabs Small Dog by the Neck
This graphic video opens with a mountain lion standing in the middle of a yard with a dog by the neck. Other dogs are barking at him, but it doesn't deter him. Near the end of the video, yard tools are hurled toward the mountain lion's head, but that doesn't get him to drop the poor pup, either.