Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Nature Ride and Mountain Lion Safety

Hardly 24 hours had gone by since my first brush with rattlesnakes when I had my first brush with a mountain lion. Again I was reminded that trail safety in Southern California has a different curriculum than trail safety in Southern Ontario.

I was headed to another favourite local spot of mine, Calavera, to hammer on some intervals and day dream of the green trails of the BCBR when I realized 1) It's Tuesday and 2) That means my buddy Nick is likely out on patrol. I texted him and sure enough, He and another rider, Brian, were just about to start their evening shred.

I explained to them I had a specific workout to do but they were welcome to hop on my wheel. Without hesitation, I had two more along for my ride. We got through all the pieces -- so much easier when you have friends to suffer with -- and then decided to reward ourselves with another 30-40 minutes of singletrack before the sun went down.

Me in my "Ninja Position" in the Magic Hour light at Calavera  

Magic Hour on Calavera is beautiful. So many critters were out -- we spotted a barn owl on the hunt, a hawk, and I think I heard some coyotes barking as well. But on our way down to a green gully we like to visit, we started to see big paw prints in the dust. They were fresh, and they didn't look very canine. We stopped to investigate and pointed out the roundness of the impression (versus a dog's oval impression), the slits where the claws had been (usually no claw marks can be seen on a mountain lion print unless they are using them for traction and here, the slope was steep and the dirt was loose) and of course the size. They were as big as Brian's hand.

Evidence of pussyfooting 
We decided to just skip the gully, and walk the heck out of there. Most people will never see a mountain lion -- tag tracking information has shown that sometimes they're hiding in the bush right beside you and you never know because they're not usually interested in us. I don't know how close we were last night but I do know the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up. But if you DO have an encounter, here's another set of "What To Do/What Not To Do" to add to the theme that seems to be going this week on the blog. For more information, check out the insanely informative Mountain Lion Foundation homepage where the following is adapted from.

Make yourself appear as large as possible.
Make yourself appear larger using your bike, and stand close to other riders. Open your jacket. Raise your arms. Wave your raised arms slowly. Lions only see in shades so you should also try to dress with contrasting colours to your surroundings.

Make noise.
Yell, shout, bang a stick against your frame. Make any loud sound that cannot be confused by the lion as the sound of prey. Speak slowly, firmly and loudly to disrupt and discourage predatory behavior.

Act like a predator yourself.
Maintain eye contact. Never run/ride past or from a mountain lion – their instinct to chase will kick in. Never bend over or crouch down. Aggressively wave your raised arms, throw stones or branches, all without turning away.

Slowly create distance.
Assess the situation. Consider whether you may be between the lion and its kittens, or between the lion and its prey or cache. Back slowly to a spot that gives the mountain lion a path to get away, never turning away from the animal. Give a mountain lion the time and ability to move away.

Protect yourself.
If attacked, fight back. Protect your neck and throat. People have utilized rocks, jackets, garden tools, tree branches, walking sticks, fanny packs and even bare hands to turn away cougars.

Magic Hour Rush Hour 

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