Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Yesterday I ran solo - kind of heavy legs, little twinges here and there, but I slogged out five slow miles. I ran along the road to our neighborhood in the dark early morning, on one side of the road neighborhoods and a school, with a strip of tall trees bordering the road, the other side of the street bordered by forest. This morning, Rick and I enjoyed a rambling run - up the new entrance to the college - about 3/4 of a mile through forest, then a loop of the campus, again, ringed by forest land, then back out the new road, and a wandering trek home. Close to six miles (messed up my Garmin) - a little quicker than yesterday. This afternoon, at work at the same college, an email comes popping in:

Within the past seventy-two hours there have been two cougar sightings on or near the campus. The first sighting took place early Monday morning when a cougar was seen crossing (the street) onto the campus (near the main entrance). The second sighting occurred Tuesday along (another street), which is along the the back side of the campus. In the event of a cougar sighting, please contact 911 immediately and then notify Campus Safety....

Oh my. I ran alone along that back side of campus road yesterday, and through the campus and on both the same roads with Rick today! I called Eric - to find out he had run through the same areas this morning. We started trying to figure out a route that stayed in well-lit neighborhoods and didn't involve forested areas - not a lot of luck there. This is a little scary. It's not really any good to skip the runs - I mean, we might never know if the cougar leaves the area, and I might never run again! What to do? Only thing I can think of is to just carry on as normal. Maybe run on the side of the road that has neighborhoods.

Typically, I'm with a running buddy at least twice a week, so that's probably pretty safe. The days I run alone...I don't know. Is there such a thing as cougar repellent? Should I take a small animal with me to toss to the cougar if I see it? My best bet is to take Rob. I know he has elaborate plans to fend off wild animals, dogs and bad guys while running - at the very least, I could make a quick get-away while Rob distracts them with his fancy moves. Rob? How about it? Rick is probably good too - I bet he knows hand-to-hand (paw?) combat. And my friend Barb? Maybe I could just give her a quick shove towards the danger and take off... Once upon a time, when Sonya and I were running through a local park, a big, fat Canadian goose came toward us, wings out, neck down, hissing and looking downright scary. Sonya, who is smaller than I am, picked me up and set me down between her and the goose. Of course, I was laughing so hard that it was difficult to protect her, but I did (I raised my arms and flapped them and moved toward the goose - it veered off). So I could do that too - put the other runner between us. Okay, I think I've got a plan!

I lost another pound - which is now part of my cougar protection plan: to get skinny enough that the cougar won't be interested. Just think - I am now hitting the ground with 10 pounds less force than two weeks ago. I hope I can get rid of two more pounds before Yakima - for a total of 18 pounds less force, and four pounds less for a cougar snack.

MM#402 signing off from the forested land, where mornings are dark, the runners are wary, and the predators roam free!

18 comments:

JustRun said...

Oh my goodness, scary Michelle! I would be freaked, too. I used to run in an area with mountain lion sightings all the time, though, so I understand not stopping. It just scares me that when you're out there, it's also dark. But hopefully spring will help that?!

robtherunner said...

Can I call you a dork now, or should I wait until I see you in person?

All you have to do if a cougar comes at you is pretend you don't notice it. Then, when it leaps at you to eat you, jump on its neck with your arms wrapped around its head and just snap it real fast until the poor little kitty goes limp. It's as simple as that.

Meghan said...

Hi Michelle,

I'm a self-proclaimed mountain lion expert. I've seen 2 lions while trail running/hiking. One followed my dog and I for several miles.

Some things I've learned from the real experts:

1. Lions hanging out in developed areas are the most dangerous kind. They are typically either juveniles who've been kicked out of their mother's territory, trying to figure out the ways of the world and experimenting with food choices, or old males and females looking for easy bites to eat. Lions are innately reclusive, so when the behavior deviates from this, it's not particularly safe.

2. Many attack victims never see the lion prior to the attack. Lions stalk and attack their prey. If you glimpse the lion while you're out and about, it's less likely to actually attack you.

3. If you see a lion, though, make lots of noise, look big, and act agressively towards it. Make eye contact with it, stare at it. And, by all means, don't run or make fast movements (movements that resemble prey behavior). Generally, they just run away when they realize what they've gotten themselves into.

4. Carrying pepper spray or something like that isn't really necessary with lions. If they attack you, you probably won't know it until they are on you. Then it's just a physical battle. Lots of people have survived attacks by fighting like hell.

5. If the sighting continued to be in a concentrated location, it likely means there is something around that area that the lion likes/wants/is trying to get (house cats? dogs?). If the sightings spread out over a larger area, then the lion is just roaming around. If the sightings stop, the lion has likely moved on, realizing there's nothing god around. No lion will willingly make a developed area its permanent territory.

6. It really is safety in numbers when it comes to lions. Though they have attacked people in groups, you are much less likely to get attacked in a group than when you are while alone. Attacks on groups of people seem to occur when the group is spread apart, not tight together.

If it were me, I'd exercise a few days patience and see how it pans out. I'd continue running with company only during this time. If the sightings stop in a few days, you're likely safe to proceed on normally.

After my scary mountain lion encounter, I was afraid to be alone out running/hiking for the longest time. Living in fear really sucked, though, so I decided I needed to move on and use the same amount of caution I use with any other hazard.

So scary, good luck! Thinking of you!
Meghan
www.running-blogs.com/meghan

Journey to a Centum said...

Rob - I didn't see where Meghan mentioned jumping on the cougars neck. Hmmm maybe she for got to mention it...

Not being a cougar expert I have done some research and the one thing that seems to heed true is that it's not natural for cougars to be harmed by the prey they attack. Cougars avoid being injured because thier life depends on being healthy in order to feed properly. If all you have is your bear hands then you should be punching, gougeing, and scratching at the cats nose, eyes, and ears. Out of 114 cougar attacks over many years in California only 6 have resulted in death. Most people were able to fight the cougar off. So.. if attacked fight for your life because that's exactly what you are doing! Check out this story: http://www.runnersweb.com/running/rw_news_frameset.html?http://www.runnersweb.com/running/news/rw_news_20040427_Raia_Schoener.html

Dori said...

Once when I was afraid that a mountain lion might be in the area, I picked up a big stick and ran with it. I figured the mountain lion could use it was a tooth pick when it was done eating me. :-)

Running in groups sounds like a good precaution. So does throwing friends in front of you!

Good job on the weight loss. I'm still seeing results from being sugar-free, but have not reached my goal size yet.

Sarah said...

Yikes! That would freak my out big time. You be careful out there, okay?

Thomas said...

"Should I take a small animal with me to toss to the cougar if I see it? My best bet is to take Rob."

That's cruel, trying to feed poor Rob to the cougar. You should be ashamed!

Wes said...

Oh my! One of the joys of running in the Northwest, I guess. Almost assuredly the cat will leave when it doesn't find any food around. I, for one, am flabbergasted that you would suggest tossing a small pet to the cougar. However, you did recover nicely when you suggested Rob as a substitute.

Ryan said...

Wild stuff…this month NG Adventure Magazine has an article about this guy who lassos’ mountain lions, although I wouldn’t recommend this tactic. Be safe out there in cougar land!

Anonymous said...

WANTED - RUNNING PARTNERS, NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED. Very slow and very weak encourgaged to apply.

runliarun said...

Do you plan to take Rob and toss him at the cougar if you see it?

E-Speed said...

Wow sounds a bit frightening. Maybe you could wear a mask on the back of your head?

Cats tend to pounce when your back is turned. If they think you are facing them maybe they will leave you alone.

olga said...

You know, this is not funny, this is scary. This is very scary. I am scared. How am I ever going to do Bighorn alone?

Anne said...

I've had my share of wildlife encounters and know how scary it can be. I too advise running with a group until it seems the cougar's moved on. Then, as always, proceed with caution.

Jenny, Maniac #401 said...

Thanks for the laugh. I needed it. II imagined Sonja placing you in front of the goose to protect her I could just see it. Too funny.

craig said...

If cougars are less likely to attack when you are facing them then have Eric invent a running jacket with a face on the back of the hood. That way it will look like you are facing the cougar even when your back is turned.

It's a win/win situation. Your life will be preserved while Eric could make a profit marketing the thing.

Meghan said...

Hi!

I just stopped back by to see if you made it through today's run courgar-less. So, did you? I hope you had a safe day!

Meghan
www.running-blogs.com/meghan

Janice said...

Here I am worried about dogs and you've got to fend off cougars! On the plus side, I did find some dog repellant spray I'm planning to carry on my jaunts into the countryside. Perhaps you should pick some up. It might work in a pinch! I also got a whistle. I'm not sure what my hopes are for it, but it was cheap. At least I'll be making noise! Good luck with the cougar. You can't give up running:)