Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fight or Flight: Lion Attacks

Mountain lions, according to a recent article in Scientific American (, may be less likely to attack if you run away. This, of course, is contrary to popular expert opinion. The article reports a study done by Richard Coss, an expert on predator-prey relations, that involved 185 lion attacks between 1890 and 2000. Coss said 43% of people who stood still facing a lion were injured compared to 17% who were injured while fleeing. The study does admit, however, that those who fled had a slightly higher chance of being killed, although he reports that only 18 people actually ran. Half of those who ran escaped without injury. Coss did not study encounters with mountain lions or near-attacks from lions.

I'm confused. First, he does not define "attack" and "near-attack." Were the 185 people pounced on? Or did they just "feel" attacked? Second, he says the people stood still. That's not what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to shout and scream, show your teeth, stand tall, and, finally, counter-attack with sticks and stones (to less than claw range) if the lion charges.

Bottom line: Almost all experts remain convinced that cats chase things, and usually catch them. So, I won't run. And I won't just stand there. Besides, I'm really slow.

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