Monday, April 11, 2005

Adapted from Don’t Get Eaten: The Dangers of Animals that Charge or Attack by Dave Smith (The Mountaineers Books, $6.95, paperback).

Limit your outdoor activities at dawn and dusk.

  • Avoid catamount kill. Catamounts will cover a kill with dirt and debris and return to feed; be alert for birds and other scavengers that might tip you off to a carcass and avoid dead animals in general.
  • Travel in a group. In particular, running or jogging alone in catamount country is a bad idea.
  • Keep small children within reach; a catamount will watch and wait for an opportunity to grab a child that strays from the group.
  • Have an adult at the front and rear of the group.
  • Carry a walking stick; it could be used in your defense.
  • Don’t count on a dog to protect you; aside from packs of well-trained lion hunting hounds, even large dogs have little or no value as a deterrent in catamount country (and they may actually lead a catamount back to you).

If you do encounter a catamount:

  • Don’t run. This is especially important for children. Flight might trigger pursuit.
  • Face the catamount. Don’t turn your back on a catamount. Stand up.
  • Maintain eye contact with the catamount. Catamounts prefer to ambush prey from behind. If the catamount knows you’ve seen it, an attack is less likely.
  • Adults: Pick up the kids. Given that children tend to frighten easily, adults should pick them up to prevent them from running or making sudden movements. Another alternative is to instruct kids to grab your leg and hang on. At the very least, children should crowd around an adult.
  • Children: Don’t move if you are closest to the catamount. If there’s a group of children scattered around an adult, the children behind the adult should move toward him or her; if there’s a child between an adult and the catamount, the adult should move toward the child.

If the catamount is within 50 yards and is intensely staring and making an effort to hide or conceal itself:

  • Do all of the above.
  • Make yourself look bigger. Raise your hands overhead. If you’ve got a jacket or a pack hold it up so you look even bigger and bulkier.
  • Attempt to move to safety. Don’t run, but if there’s a safer location (a building or car) nearby, move toward it slowly while facing and watching the catamount. Try to get on higher ground than the catamount.

If the catamount is staring intensely and trying to hide, combined with crouching and/or creeping toward you:

  • Do all of the above.
  • Throw things at the catamount if it’s close enough.
  • Smile. Show the catamount your teeth. To the catamount, you’re displaying weapons.
  • Yell, shout, and make intimidating noises. Your goal is to convince the catamount that you are not prey, and may in fact be dangerous.

If a catamount is staring intensely, with its tail twitching, body low to the ground/crouching, and ears erect, the catamount is waiting for a chance to attack. If the catamount’s rear legs are also pumping or moving up and down and its ears are turned fur side forward, an attack is imminent:

  • Do all of the above.
  • Launch a preemptive strike by taking aggressive action toward the catamount.
  • If you have a weapon, use it. If you have a tree branch or walking stick, quickly run toward the catamount and shove the stick in its face. If you don’t have a stick, yell and run toward the catamount with your hands overhead but stop before you’re within reach of its paws.

If a catamount attacks and makes contact:

  • Fight for your life. Use any weapon available: camera, binoculars, a knife, a fishing pole, or your fists. Direct your blows to the catamount’s eye’s, nose, ears, and face.
  • If a catamount attacks a child, adults should attempt to fight the catamount off by any means possible, including bare hands. It has worked, and the catamount rarely turns on its assailant.
  • If a catamount attacks and injures a child, then retreats a short distance after being driven off, guard the child and watch the catamount carefully—catamounts have been known to return again and again, focused entirely on the child.

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