Florence, MT man rescues dad from mountain lion. By Brett French. Billings Gazette. 64 year old father probably saved when his 41 year old son shot the cougar.

Earlier this month the Montana Standard reported a cougar stalking an adolescent boy who was hunting with his father southwest of Butte. The 14-year old boy shot the cougar. Story from the Montana Standard.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

22 Responses to Two close encounters with cougars in Montana in a month

  1. avatar Mike says:

    Interesting snippet:

    “Since the walk they planned wasn’t far, Duane also left his CamelBak backpack, which contained pepper spray, in the car”

  2. avatar Cobra says:

    Years ago while deer hunting in western Colorado I shot a smallish 4 point buck. While dressing the buck I got the strangest feeling and stood up and looked around, not 30 yards away there was a mountain lion just sitting on this big rock watching me dress the buck. My rifle was only about 5 feet away against a small cedar, as I started backing away from the cat towards the rifle he jumped off the rock on to one a little closer, as I reached for my rifle he gave a little growl and walked away through the brush. I think to this day that’s the fastest I’ve ever gotten a deer to the truck. Kind of nerve racking but neat as hell just the same.

  3. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Cobra, I have been followed by a mountain lion before. I remember the forest got eerily quiet for a while. When we got back into the truck we could see fresh mountain lion tracks that were not there when we left. It had followed us a ways and we didn’t see it. Needless to say, we decided to hunt a little further away!

  4. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    Thankfully all humans involved were unharmed. In addition, the firearm was able to accomplish what the bear spray can never accomplish – removing a wild animal with predatory intent toward humans from the wilderness we all enjoy.

  5. avatar Save bears says:

    Juvenile lions are very unpredictable, especially their first year on their own and they test basically everything they encounter to figure out if it is in fact prey. That said, these were two unusual situations and I am glad none of them were hurt..

  6. avatar JB says:

    “…the firearm was able to accomplish what the bear spray can never accomplish – removing a wild animal with predatory intent toward humans from the wilderness we all enjoy.”

    Yes. And with bears that is exactly the problem. Being sprayed with bear/pepper spray is an extremely negative experience and bears are quick learners. Spray a bear with bear spray and you’ve taught it to associate humans with pain and thus, reduced the probability that it will ever intentionally come close to a person again. Kill it and you make room for another bear that hasn’t learned the lesson.

    With some folks is always kill, kill, kill…

  7. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    JB – so according to you, bears with predatory intent towards humans will learn their lesson from the negative experience of bear spray – as you say they are quick learners. Where have you been? If a negative experience worked on a predatory/habituated bears they would all be gone from campsites at the first rubber bullet or painful loud noise provided by hazing. Bears or cougars behaving in the manner described in the articles have already learned to stalk human beings – the only thing that is left to do is deal with them as the two hunters did. With some folks reality is always out of reach

  8. avatar JB says:

    “If a negative experience worked on a predatory/habituated bears they would all be gone from campsites at the first rubber bullet or painful loud noise provided by hazing.”

    Okay: First, please don’t equate “predatory” with “habituated”. All bears are predators, not all bears habituated to human beings.

    Second, don’t confuse habituation with food conditioning. Habituation to humans IS NOT NECESSARILY A BAD THING; it generally entails learning to tolerate humans, which can prevent attacks where close encounters are probable. Most problems occur when bears have been food conditioned (i.e. where bears learn to associate humans with food).

    Third, who said anything about habituation/food-conditioning to begin with? I was referring to the general situation (described above) in which someone is stalked or in which they encounter a predator unexpectedly. Such an animal isn’t necessarily food conditioned, nor even habituated to human presence.

    Fourth, aversive conditioning has been shown to work for the very purpose you describe (i.e. teaching predators to stay away from certain animals).

    Now let’s juxtapose your conclusion with Save bears’:

    “Bears or cougars behaving in the manner described in the articles have already learned to stalk human beings – the only thing that is left to do is deal with them as the two hunters did.”

    “Juvenile lions are very unpredictable, especially their first year on their own and they test basically everything they encounter to figure out if it is in fact prey.”

  9. The big cats of Africa´s NPs are habituated to humans as long as you stay in your Jeep and become quite predatory when you leave that Jeep.

  10. avatar Alan says:

    “…….bears with predatory intent towards humans……”
    Of course that is extremely, extremely rare. Most bears that do attack do so for defensive reasons (protecting cubs, food source etc.). Mt. lion attacks of any nature are also very rare.
    There is an interesting new book out called “Dying to Hunt in Montana, Two hundred Years of Hunting Related Deaths in Montana” by Tom Donovan, that tells a very interesting tale about recorded deaths of people hunting in the state. He records 170 hunters accidentally killing themselves (one guy threw a sardine can up in the air and it came down onto the trigger of a loaded shotgun which blew his face off!); 155 dying of health related problems, mostly heart attacks; 128 that were killed by their hunting companions (including one shot and killed by his dog who was clawing at the safety on a rifle and managed to pull the trigger, and one shot and killed by a deer he thought was dead. He had set his rifle down across the animal to get out his tag, the animal kicked one last time catching its hoof in the trigger and setting off the gun!! One hunter opens the rear passenger side door of a vehicle and aims at a deer across the road. The driver opens his door and stands up only to be shot in the head!); 91 who died of starvation or other problems after having gotten lost in the woods; 66 drownings; 33 killed by other hunters (not their own party) who mistook them for game. Only 18 have been killed in encounters with wildlife! Kind of puts everything into perspective when you read about bear or cougar attacks!! It’s dangerous out there, but it’s not the bears and cougars that make it that way!!!!
    Kind of like demonizing wolves for killing a few dozen cows and sheep when thousands die from weather, digestive and birthing problems and turtling (sheep).

  11. avatar jdubya says:

    Nice Alan, very nice! Perspective is always of value.

  12. avatar JB says:

    Alan:

    What would be really interesting is to know how many defense of life killings of wildlife happened over the same period.

    I should point out that I have no problem with the above scenario, nor killing animals to save people’s lives. What irks me is the idea that predators need to be killed for exhibiting predatory behavior (i.e. doing what they’re meant to do). Given increasing human populations (and increases in encounter rates), such a philosophy essentially condemns predator populations.

  13. avatar Alan says:

    What would also be interesting to compare would be predator encounters with non hunters (read that, unarmed individuals) v. those with armed individuals. Percentage of animals deaths, human deaths, injuries etc. per, say, 100 encounters. Also comparing encounters of pre-bear spray/post bear spray encounters in unarmed individuals.

    I’m with you. I don’t feel comfortable second guessing someone who felt that their life, or the life of a loved one (or companion) was in danger. I do, however, feel that there are a lot of misinformed and uneduacated folks running around the back country. I think that the average backpacker spending two or three weeks in the Northern Rockies may, sadly, be better informed than a lot of (not all) so-called “outdoorsmen”. If the great experiment is to work (that is: saving a place for these magnificent creatures in our modern world), then education is a must.

  14. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    JB – first, I was clearly referring to animals being predatory towards humans – clearly most are not or this website would have human/predator conflicts of 10 per day. Second, you must be of the new school about how habituated wildlife is great – guess you overlooked the latest example down in WY – bears 399 & 615 – just lovable fuzz balls one attacked a human and one was killed in the process of attacking a human – everyone just loved seeing them etc. and they knew neither would hurt a mouse, just read the glowing obit – mother and daughter might I add. JB – please do not confuse a surprise encounter with predatory stalking. And also, your certainty on the behavior of bears is surpassed only by Tim Treadwell – he knew everything about bear behavior also now didn’t he?
    Alan – thanks for the information – maybe JB and Jdubay can put into perspective the number of bears that have been killed in self defense over the years instead of losing it everytime a dangerous animal is killed. Perspective……..

  15. avatar jdubya says:

    Alan, based upon the book you described above, it will be interesting to track incidents in the National Parks with visitors allowed to pack heat. How many visitor on visitor kills will there be? How many wounding’s? How many visitors firing their arms off in the direction of vaguely threatening wildlife when in the past they just had to show caution when hiking the wilds.

    And these won’t be seasoned Wyoming, Idaho or Montana hunters that just happen to confuse a black bear with a grizz. These will be heat-packing flatlanders from Kansas and Nebraska whose experience in the past with hostile wildlife was a whitetail in rut.

    http://www.wildlifeartjournal.com/blog/104/time-will-only-prove-folly-of-new-gun-law-for-u-s-national-parks.html

  16. avatar Alan says:

    I agree. I still cannot believe that this was snuck through a Democrat controlled Congress and signed by a Democrat President. I really don’t know where to go with my vote anymore.

    A friend of mine has a theory that Obama is waiting until his second term (when he won’t have to worry about re-election) before he starts ticking off special interest groups like the NRA.
    I say, he won’t get re-elected if he ticks off his base now.

  17. avatar JB says:

    “…you must be of the new school about how habituated wildlife is great – guess you overlooked the latest example down in WY – bears 399 & 615…”

    –And apparently you’re of the old school that thinks the only reasonable way to interact with predators is to shoot at them. By the way, you overlook nearly all of the large carnivores in Yellowstone National Park, which are nearly all habituated to humans and cause relatively few problems now that food conditioning is controlled. Food conditioning is the problem, not habituation; the distinction is important.

    “JB – please do not confuse a surprise encounter with predatory stalking…”

    –I didn’t. I used the conjunctive term, “or”, to separate the two scenarios. In either case, the text that follows applies equally to both.

    “…your certainty on the behavior of bears is surpassed only by Tim Treadwell…”

    –Can you please show me where exactly I have expressed “certainty” regarding bear behavior? There is no one size fits all response when it comes to dealing with large carnivores. Ironically, it was your certainty (using the word “never”) that prompted my original response.

    Your quote: “…the firearm was able to accomplish what the bear spray can never accomplish…”

    — I didn’t “lose it”, as you contend, because a cougar was killed; I simply objected to your assertion that the only way to deal with predatory behavior is by killing the offending animal. In a word, HOGWASH!

  18. avatar Talks with Bears says:

    JB – It appears we have a difference of opinion on how to deal with predatory behavior towards humans – I will stick to what is best for the humans and you can live with the predators. Maybe, you can get into their minds (predators) and report back to us on their intent. And JB, HOGWASH is such a strong word – can’t we all just get along????

  19. avatar Cobra says:

    Alan,
    I don’t know if I would say the average back packer is more informed than some hunters. I do think though that backpackers that do not come from a hunting background are more likely to prepare themselves to use bear spray. Hunters are more than likely raised around guns from an early age and that’s what we feel more comfortable with when we’re out and about. I’m not against bear spray and would probably carry it, actually have been thinking about getting a can since we are seeing more grizzlies in north Idaho, but I can’t honestly say that I would use it in a situation that I was being attacked, Ive been in this situation with a black bear and until it happens I don’t think anyone can say what they would do. You don’t really think about anything, you just react, hopefully the right way.

  20. avatar Richie,NJ says:

    Tim Treadwell got caught with an old hungry bear did not see the warning signs,became complacent.

  21. avatar Richie,NJ says:

    See the story on Tim Treadwell, and you can tell why he was killed. It just did not come out of the blue, animal behavior for the most part can be explained, you can find answers if you are willing to search.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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