Submersing ourselves in nature is a healing, beautiful experience. But we have to be ready to encounter all the wildlife it offers along the way.
For one Utah hiker, that meant confronting a mountain lion without any protection or training for such a situation.
Survival instincts kicked in for both species and the results offer a cautionary tale for all humans when entering the wild.
Kyle Burgess was running the trails in Slate Canyon near Provo, Utah when he came upon two small mountain lion cubs, he told Deseret News.
He slowed down to cautiously pass around the cubs when an angry female cougar emerged – ready to protect her babies at all cost!
Some of us would’ve chosen to make a run for it – but not Burgess. He knew better than to take his eyes off the angry feline.
Slowly, he began walking backwards while shouting expletives and threatening phrases.
“Go away! I’m big and scary!” Burgess firmly told the cat. “What’s up dude? Nice and slow.”
All the while, the mother cougar hissed and lunged towards Burgess in a threatening manner.
It seemed that the feline wasn’t going to back off for anything and Burgess had the disheartening realization that this could be his final resting place.
“OK, this is when I (expletive) die,” he said. “Come on, dude. I don’t feel like dying today.”
But just when his fate seemed sealed, Burgess made a final attempt to scare the mountain lion away and threw a rock at her – and it worked!
Amazingly, the mother cougar turned the other way and ran back down the trail toward her cubs.
After six harrowing minutes of being stalked by a mountain lion – which must have felt like a lifetime – Burgess was free to live another day!
And the best part (other than walking away with his life) is that he caught the whole experience on video.
“Wow, that just happened,” Burgess said as he watched the whole encounter on his camera. “I’m somewhat calm actually. Yeah, not going back that way.”
The incident soon garnered national attention, including that of major news agencies.
When asked by CNN’s Anderson Cooper if he had considered running, Burgess said he never wanted to run because he knew he had to keep his eyes on the cougar.
“I felt like if I did anything sooner, she would have felt like I was attacking her baby cubs and It would have ended a lot differently,” he said.
“Did you want to project strength?” Cooper later inquired.
“Oh definitely!” Burgess said. “I had my phone in one hand and my other hand up in the air trying to look as big as I could. I’m not the biggest person … so this cougar could take me down in a heartbeat.”
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources was not as surprised about the wild encounter, posting on Facebook, “Utah is cougar country,” along with advice for anyone who is caught in a similar situation.
First, you never want to run from a cougar, but never approach it either. You will also want to maintain eye contact until you are out of danger.
Never crouch down to their level or they are likely to lunge right toward you.
Make yourself seem as “big” as possible, much like if you encounter a bear, by waving your hands or jacket above your head as you s-l-o-w-l-y back away.
As you back away, speak at the mountain lion in a loud, firm voice.
If you have children or pets with you, it’s imperative you pick them up and keep them close to your body so they are not singled out as the easiest prey.
In the off chance that you are attacked, never stop fighting while shielding your neck and head.
Cougars are a protected species in Utah, but you are allowed to defend yourself.
The good news is it’s actually incredibly rare to be attacked by a mountain lion. In fact, Outside Online reports there have been less than two dozen fatal attacks in the last 100 years!
Nevertheless, it is always best to be prepared for an encounter with any wild animal when you’re exploring.
But don’t let a little wildlife deter you from taking in the breathtaking sights of Cloudland State Park in Georgia, or Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas – or Utah’s very own natural wonder, the Delicate Arch.