Early one morning, I headed out on a trail near my Nevada campsite. A large cougar stopped me in my tracks just a few mionutes later. We were RV camping near mountain lions, and I didn’t even know it.
Lucky for me, the cougar kept walking while I slowly backed away. Seeing a wild cougar (also called mountain lions) was exciting, but knowing how to stay safe around mountain lions is a camping skill I should have learned before that encounter. Most of RVers don’t even know when they are camping near mountain lions. These big cats are solitary creatures, after all. So even if you haven’t seen one yet, odds are pretty good that you might. And when the day happens, here’s how to stay safe.
Surprising Facts About Mountain Lions
Cougars get a bad rap, like the mountain lion who attacked a Colorado trail runner. I was lucky. The big, serene cougar I encountered ran off and disappeared into the brush. Once I caught my breath, I realized “I don’t know anything about mountain lions!” Shaken from the encounter, I went home to learn how to stay safe when camping near mountain lions. Some surprising facts from the Mountain Lion Foundation that I learned include:
Cougars living near campgrounds is more common than most RVers think.
Chances are good that you have gone camping in mountain lion territory. You just didn’t hear or see the big cats. But with their supersonic hearing capabilities and keen eyesight, it’s very likely that they saw you. Mountain lions can even see you in the dark.
YouTube is packed with videos of mountain lions in campgrounds and RV parks. Here’s nighttime video of a cougar roaming at Yosemite Lakes RV resort in California.
How to Avoid Encounters when RV Camping Near Mountain Lions
If you RV in the west, you are probably camping in cougar habitat. In destinations like scenic Vancouver Island, the western Oregon mountains, boondocking sites in Colorado, and everywhere in-between, the big cats roam for food and mates. Despite the many mountain lion myths about human attacks, cougars try to avoid people at all costs.
Mountain lion encounters at campgrounds are rare, but when you’re RV camping near mountain lions it’s still critical to choose campsites in areas they prefer to avoid. Experts at the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Headquarters share mountain lion safety tips including:
What If You See a Mountain Lion at Your Campsite?
Most people never see a mountain lion in nature. If you do, don’t take risks. There are important things to know if you get near a mountain lion when camping:
When a mountain lion doesn’t see you, Keep moving
Consider yourself lucky and avoid the cat at all costs. Move in another direction.
If a mountain lion sees you, here’s what to do.
- DO NOT RUN. Stay calm.
- Face the cat while slowly backing away.
- Stand tall, don’t crouch or bend over to pick up a rock.
- Carry children accompanying you.
- Appear large. Wave your arms, raise your voice. Be intimidating!
What If a Mountain Lion Attacks?
In the unlikely event that a cougar attacks, you fight back! Use rocks, sticks, your elbows, hands. Protect your neck. Try to remain standing or get up if you fall. Even kids have been known to fight off cougars.
Unless the cougar attacks, you don’t need to report the encounter to authorities. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation:
With much of the western United States being mountain lion habitat, many parks have come to expect occasional lion sightings as natural occurrence in wild areas, and will simply take note of your report of seeing a lion.Mountain Lion Safety on the Trail, the Mountain Lion Foundation
If the lion exhibited aggressive behavior in the encounter, officials may close off the trail temporarily as it may be a mother lion with cubs nearby; or they may choose to investigate why the lion behaved out of character, as it may be diseased or injured.
Making a media event out of a lion encounter often leads to the death of the lion, even when it behaved perfectly naturally, and caused no harm.
Have you ever seen a mountain lion at a campground? Comment below or go to our Facebook page to tell us what happened when you were camping near mountain lions.
12 thoughts on “Are You RV Camping Near Mountain Lions?”
You forgot to mention Florida as panther / mountain lion habitat
Thanks Bill. It was on my mind but I forgot. Much appreciated!
Personally I would not tent camp in cougar and/or bear country.
And don’t forget New Mexico and Arizona.
Never seen a mountain lion in our campground, but have seen tracks in soft soil nearby. Have had black bears in our cgs. in several states. Also had a young grizzly destroy a screened canopy over the picnic table in the campsite behind ours in Alaska. The campers had left two unopened 12 packs of pop on the picnic table. After the bear visit, there were no unopened pop cans!
Yikes Steve! Glad the grizz didn’t visit your spot too!
My wife encountered a young female puma late afternoon near the wash house at the ranger campground at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. An experience to remember.
While hiking their primitive trail by myself in the evening the hairs on the back of my head stood up with the distinct feeling I was being watched😁
Woah! Glad things turned out OK. I’ll remember that next time we go there.
I was camping in Kelowna BC, Canada a few years ago. It was on the edge of the city in an Orchard that offered 10 camp spots.
It was 1130pm at night and my wife had just gone to bed.
I was seated on a picnic table bench out side the door to our motorhome.
I could hear someone waking in the gravel behind me…
I thought to myself if they get close enough I’ll stand up to greet them if needed. Well they did get close enough. I stood up and turned around 180 degrees to face them.
It was then that I realized my friendly neighbour was the largest Cougar I had ever seen!
As I stood up the cat stopped in it’s tracks between two Juniper trees! We looked at each other and the cat trotted off to its left side.
I ran into the motorhome already not believing what I had just encountered!
The next morning I took my tape measure out and measured from the cat’s front foot prints to where I had stood. It was a mere 7 feet!
By the way his foot prints were bigger than my hands – that’s how big he/she was!
We still camp in Cat Country every year and I always listen! 🙂
YIKES! That encounter was way scarier than mine. It was your lucky night!
Ring cameras spotted a Mountain Lion in Fate TX;
I’ve personally seen cougars in the wild in Maine, and one was documented traveling through the Adirondacks in Upstate New York while I lived there.
A cougar from South Dakota was struck by a car in Connecticut, so they do travel great distances and range into the Northeast as well.
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