Predators and Prey: Lions, Coyotes and Bears, Oh My!
You’re walking down the trail, and you spot a mountain lion in the distance. It sees you and starts walking your way. What should you do?
That isn’t a common scenario for bowhunters, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared if you encounter a feisty feline, hungry bear or other large predator. In our previous article, we discussed some do’s and don’ts when sharing space with such animals. Here’s a quick recap, followed by some real encounters.
General Rules of Encounters
When encountering any predator, do not act like a prey animal, especially injured prey. If you turn the corner in a trail and confront a black bear, don’t run, fall or scream. That could trigger a predatory response.
If you own a cat or dog, you’ve probably seen how they would respond. If their toy is sitting still, they usually aren’t interested in playing. But when you roll their ball or make their toy squeak, they’ll chase it.
For the most part, animals fear humans. In some instances, they’re brazen. If they don’t run away, follow these basic rules:
— Do not run because the animal will likely chase you.
— Don’t move suddenly. Such movements might seem threatening to the animal and trigger a dangerous response.
— Do not make panicky, high-pitched squealing sounds. Use a calm, assertive tone to let the animal know you’re present.
— Never turn your back. Submissive behavior can cause predators to consider you prey.
Bear Climbing Your Treestand
In this video, the hunter is in a treestand, and the bear climbs up for a visit. Bears are curious animals with a great sense of smell. When they detect new scents, they usually investigate.
What should you do? Talk at a normal level to alert the bear. You don’t need to ruin your hunt by shouting.
“It’s just a curious and intelligent animal that has been drawn to an area to see what new thing has shown up in its home range,” said Jamie Sajecki, the black bear project leader for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. “The chances of people having a negative interaction with a bear while hunting is so minimal.”
The hunter in the video did a great job using his voice to calmly let the bear know he’s a human. It worked, and the bear descended. The bear is now smarter, and the human has a cool story to share.
However, it’s far better to avoid the situation. “If you’re uncomfortable with a bear coming close to your treestand, it’s important to identify yourself as a person well before it gets to your treestand,” Sajecki said.
You Encounter a Mountain Lion
Mountain lions are master hunters and very secretive. Seeing one in the wild is rare and special. If you get uncomfortably close to one, like the hiker in this video, you should stand your ground.
“Once they realize you’re not easy prey they generally break off the pursuit,” said Dr. Chuck Anderson, the mammal researcher for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
The hiker did a great job letting the mountain lion know he was a human and not easy prey. His only mistake was running at the beginning of the video. That’s when the lion closed the distance. This behavior is usually displayed by juvenile males. “The few instances I’ve seen with cougars being aggressive is with juveniles or sub-adults,” Anderson said.
After that initial error, the hiker displayed dominant behavior to make the mountain back away. Try to make the mountain lion flee. Don’t try to escape because it will likely follow you.
Such encounters are rare when hunting in mountain lion country. “I’ve spent a lot of time around mountain lions, and except the instances when I was actively pursuing them for research, I’ve only seen two in the wild,” Anderson said.
If you’re alone in the woods at night, the sound of howling coyote can certainly be scary, but there’s nothing to fear.
Coyotes are one of the most common predators you’ll encounter. These canines are widespread throughout the country and continue to expand their range.
Even though coyotes are predators, they don’t look at humans as prey. However, a rabid coyote is a threat to humans, as is any rabid animal. Another instance where a coyote might attack a human is when they’ve lost their fear of people, which can happen when individuals feed coyotes in urban settings.
While hunting, you might hear coyotes in the distance or they might find your harvest before you. In this case, you still have nothing to fear.
“They aren’t going to risk a conflict with a human,” Anderson said. “They’ll likely hear you coming and run before you even get to your animal.”
The next time you’re blood trailing after dark, remember that coyotes aren’t the big bad wolf, even though they sound like it. If you find yourself face to face with a coyote, respect it but don’t be afraid. Observe the animal for signs of rabies and follow the basic rules of interacting with a predator.
Bowhunters get to see many animals in the woods, and each experience is as valuable as venison in your freezer.
“Watching a bear go about its business is so amazing and interesting to watch,” Sajecki said. It’s something anyone can appreciate.”
To experience the outdoors and have your own adventures, visit an archery store to start bowhunting.