Mountain lion crawls over rocks
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Harrowing Footage Shows Mountain Lion Stalking Two Hikers in California

The snapping of a twig alerted the hikers to the big cat's presence.

A Northern California hiker and his mother had an unsettling experience on a Sonoma County trail earlier this month when they realized they were being stalked by a mountain lion. The pair was alerted to the large animal's presence when a twig snapped behind them.

The hiker wrote in his Instagram post about the harrowing experience: "As I turned my head a full grown cougar was lunging out of the brush towards us. I didn't really have time to think. It was fight, flight, or freeze. It all happened so fast but I reacted without haste. Arms up, primal yell and quickly advanced towards the cat. One more step by either of us and I was in for some battle wounds. Maybe fatal ones."

The mountain lion stopped its forward motion, though, opting to observe the pair from a distance—and they walked away. The hiker's situational awareness and quick thinking likely saved their lives, though mountain lion attacks are fairly rare.

The video clip shared to his Wild Wild Rocks page opens with the hiker saying, "Mom and I just got charged by a mountain lion. He's still watching us." He pans the camera to the hillside behind him. At first, all you can see is beige grass and bushes—the perfect hiding spot for the camel-colored cougar. But, if you look closely, you can see the mountain lion's head peeking out from behind a shrub, eyes firmly focused on his potential targets. Thankfully, that's where the mountain lion decided to stay, leaving the pair to finish their hike.

While they have been known to happen, mountain lion attacks on humans are fairly rare. Be that as it may, you should always take precautions when hiking in the outdoors, especially around dusk or dawn.

In this situation, one of the hikers took the correct steps to keep the lion at bay by making large movements. However, there are other things you can do to stay safe in the event of a mountain lion encounter.

  • According to the National Park Service, hikers and joggers shouldn't go out alone, and kids and pets should be kept close by and monitored at all times. Dogs are frequent targets in mountain lion attacks and should be kept on a leash while hiking.
  • If you happen upon a mountain lion, do not walk up to it, because it may see that as a threat. Typically, they like to avoid confrontation and need a way to run from you. Also, do not run away from them, as it will make them want to chase you. Instead, the NPS says, you should stand your ground, make eye contact, and do not turn your back on the animal or bend down.
  • Take a page out of the hiker's book and raise your arms in the air, making yourself look larger. On top of that, speak loudly. If branches or rocks are nearby, use them to throw at the mountain lion to scare it away.
  • If the cougar decides to attack, fight back with whatever is nearby. The NPS website says many people have survived attacks because they fought back with rocks, sticks, jackets, and caps. Some have even used their bare hands to get away.

Of course, if you see a mountain lion out on a trail, be sure to report it to the ranger station or the local fish and wildlife authorities.

READ MORE: What to Do If You Encounter a Mountain Lion in the Wild