What would you do? Viral encounter serves as safety reminder for southern Arizona

Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 10:29 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A Utah man survived a six-minute encounter with a mountain lion while on a trail and has the video to prove it.

That video has since gone viral and serves as a safety reminder for southern Arizona where those big cats call home, too.

“That was an amazing encounter. It was an unusual encounter. I’m surprised she stayed with the hiker for as lone as she did," said Karen Klima with the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

Kyle Burgess met the mountain lion and her cubs on a trail south of Salt Lake City over the weekend. As the 26-year-old started filming, the mountain lion started charging towards him.

“You see the two cubs and one kind of runs off, but then I didn’t notice mom was right there and that’s when I knew it was not a good situation to be in," said Burgess.

Burgess slowly backed away and yelled towards the animal in an attempt to intimidate. The mountain lion continued to pursue, while lunging, hissing and flashing it’s teeth several times. Burgess finally threw a rock at the animal, startling it.

“It was all improv. I’m not no outdoor expert at all," said Burgess.

Expert or not, Klima said the encounter itself, was rare. She said you shouldn’t expect something like that to happen while hiking in Southern Arizona, as mountain lions are nocturnal animals who are mostly out at night. Klima said she was also surprised to see how long the animal pursued the man.

“He did so many good things right. He yelled at the animal. He backed away slowly. He did not run, which is one of the worst things you can do with a mountain lion because that will trigger that chase response if you run," said Klima. "What I wished he had done earlier and did at the very end, he threw something at the mountain lion, that triggered the animal to break off and go run.”

If you encounter a mountain lion:

  • Do not approach the animal. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.
  • Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly.
  • Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion’s instinct to chase.
  • Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.
  • Appear larger by raising your arms or opening your jacket if you are wearing one. Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the lion that you are not easy prey and that you may be a danger to it.
  • Maintain eye contact and slowly back away toward a building, vehicle, or busy area.
  • Protect small children so they won’t panic and run.
  • Fight back if attacked. Many potential victims have fought back successfully with rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, their bare hands, and even mountain bikes. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the animal.

Report all mountain lion attacks to 911. All mountain lion encounters and attacks, sightings in urban areas, property damage due to mountain lions or possession of a live mountain lion should also be reported to your local Arizona Game and Fish Department office (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday – Friday excluding holidays). After hours and weekends, a radio dispatcher is available at (623) 236-7201.

If you live in mountain lion country, you should

  • Hike or walk in groups.
  • Make noise when you’re outside.
  • Closely supervise children whenever they play outdoors, especially in rugged country between dusk and dawn. Talk with children about mountain lions and teach them what to do if they encounter one.
  • Keep dogs, cats, poultry, sheep, goats, rabbits, rodents and other domestic animals indoors or in a secure enclosure with a sturdy roof. Always walk pets on a leash. Roaming pets are easy prey for hungry mountain lions and coyotes. Do not feed pets outside and keep their food inside; the food can attract javelina and other mountain lion prey.
  • Avoid feeding wildlife. By feeding deer, javelina, or other wildlife in your yard, you may inadvertently attract mountain lions, which prey upon them.
  • Trim landscaping around your home. Remove dense and low-lying vegetation that can provide good hiding places for mountain lions and coyotes, especially around children’s play areas.
  • Install outdoor lighting. Keep the house perimeter well lit at night, especially along walkways, to keep any approaching lions visible.

You can find more information about living with mountain lions here.

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.