mountain lion

They’re Big Scaredy-Cats After All

Mountain lions can actually get spooked by the presence of humans, which might be playing a part in their endangered status.


Animals are usually more frightened of you than you are of them, and it turns out that mountain lions are no exception. A recent study conducted by researchers from Western University in London, Ont., suggests that a mountain lion is just as much of a scaredy-cat as your furry loved one at home.

The team planted motion-activated recordings of humans talking at an average volume near mountain lions’ kill sites to see how the returning hunters would react. As a control, they also used recordings of Pacific tree frogs.

Chattering humans sent 83% of mountain lions packing, while the frogs did little to deter them from meal time.

The data supplied by the study also shows that the cats were a bit paranoid after their initial flight. Those that returned took longer than normal to do so and also spent a shorter than average time munching on their dinner.

The same team of American and Canadian researchers previously showed that mountain lions kill more deer in urban areas. They reported a 36% increase in deer kills in areas where human housing and animal habitat bleed into each other. Hungry cats are spending less time with their kill in more densely populated areas – they make up for this by killing more deer overall.

The two studies suggest that humans are capable of upsetting the ecological balance through means other than habitat destruction.

The all-American hunter

The mountain lion of the Americas roams a geographic area larger than any other wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Big kitties like this can be found all the way up in chilly Yukon or down at the southern tip of the Andes.

Weighing up to 60 kg and measuring around two metres in length, these felines are the most powerful wildcat in Canada, but unfortunately, they have been listed as an endangered species, with deforestation and mining causing habitat destruction for both them and their prey.

Significant overlap exists between residential areas and the mountainous territories of these animals, particularly in suburbs like Berkeley, California and on Vancouver Island. Government park rangers typically issue radio warnings over local stations to warn against venturing too far from the noise and light of urban environments when mountain lions have been spotted close by.

Though mountain lions still pose a threat, especially to more vulnerable populations such as children and small dogs, adults can probably get away with spreading their arms and howling. And, according to this study, it seems you might even be able to talk your way out of trouble.

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Barry is a journalist, editor, and marketer for several media outlets including HeadStuff, The Media Editor, and Buttonmasher Magazine. He earned his Master of the Arts in Journalism from Dublin City University in 2017 and moved to Toronto to pursue a career in the media. Barry is passionate about communicating and debating culture, science, and politics and their collective global impact.