Bear spray is a wonderful tool for a hiker to have. You never know what might be awaiting you around the next bend on a deserted trail. Deemed 92% effective in staving off bear attacks, the pepper-based spray is an effective antidote against a possible threat from other predators, such as a mountain lion.
The reason bear spray works on mountain lions is similar to why it works on bears. It imparts significant pain on sensitive nostrils, eyes and other soft tissue if directed properly.
There have been many documented cases of dangers alleviated through this simple tool.
What is Bear Spray and Why Does It Work?
Bear spray is a variant of what is generally known as pepper spray. Both bear and pepper sprays have oleoresin capsicum (OC) as their base. OC is an oily substance derived from cayenne peppers.
I am sure most of us have had the experience of pain from consuming too much cayenne pepper on our food – now imagine that getting into nose, eye and other soft tissue. A bear or a mountain lion in the path of a proper burst does not know what hit it – a choking sensation with teary eyes is very undesirable.
In personal pepper spray or mace, the concentrations of OC and other related capsaicinoids tend to be high, up to 3 percent, which is why it tends to be a restricted use substance in many US states and illegal in Canada. Bear sprays, on the other hand, typically do not possess more than 2% of the compounds that actually cause the most pain.
There are a number of ways that you can optimize the use of the spray. It’s worth learning the tricks of the trade in this regard.
Keep Your Bear Spray Handy and Use It to Maximum Effect
Bear spray cans have a design that allows you to use it to maximum effect, if you know what to do. First, do not pack it away in some pocket of your rucksack. If you spot a mountain lion close to you, there may not be time to fumble through the bag. Ideally, bear spray should be carried in readily accessible holsters on your belt or bag, so you can grab it quickly when needed.
We recommend using this bear spray by SABRE. It’s a maximum strength spray which also comes with an option that adds a sleek carrying holster for your convenience.
Secondly, do procure “bear spray”, as opposed to carrying your pepper spray can (which you may own for urban use) with you into the wild. There is a big difference in the design of the can.
Pepper spray cans, meant to use in close quarters, direct a short, concentrated jet at close quarters. That’s definitely not how you want your mountain lion or bear encounter to go. An agile cat close to you can simply leap at you while you are aiming. Not ideal!
Bear spray cans, on the other hand, are designed to discharge a curtain of particulates over a cone shaped, wide spray angle – the ideal time for use is when you are 25-30 feet away from your target (a mountain lion in this case).
Also, the spray lasts for at least 6 seconds. So, if you spray downwards, you end up creating a wall of capsaicinoids between you and the mountain lion that delivers the full force of the unpleasant messages you wish to impart. Most of the time, the animal will decide that getting after you is simply not worth it.
How to Act if Confronted by a Mountain Lion
How to utilize bear sprays is part of a general set of rules that you should follow if you spot a mountain lion in your vicinity. It all boils down to the facts outlined earlier – namely, an adult human is not the ideal prey for a mountain lion to pursue. You are more likely to be unlucky than a carefully stalked victim if you meet a mountain lion.
Given this, your basic approach should be to make yourself appear even less desirable than normal through your postures and actions. Do not turn tail and run, or otherwise try to retreat or show signs of weakness. You do not want the cat to decide that you are easy prey.
Stand your ground. Stand tall to try and look bigger than you normally are. If you have sticks, poles or other objects that you can twirl menacingly, have at it. The effect should be to make the mountain lion think that you are big and strong – and simply not worth the trouble.
If the cat comes towards you, this would be the right time to pull out the bear spray. If you should be so unlucky as to have the mountain lion get close, do whatever it takes to fight – do not assume a defensive posture or turn to run, you won’t get far. Poke, hit, scratch, use your fists – aim for the eyes, nose and other soft areas.
But hopefully, this will never happen if you are able to spot the mountain lion in time and have your bear spray handy.
The Danger Posed by Mountain Lions
Mountain lions – which include big cats such as cougars and pumas – are reclusive creatures. Studies have shown that in many cases, mountain lions tend to make themselves scarce even at the sound of human voices.
For example, a 2017 study published for the Royal Society of B by Justin Smith et al showed how pumas in California were so afraid of humans (as the super predator) that they would slink away from their feed.
Besides the potential generational fear from being hunted by humans, the fact of the matter is that an adult human possesses a big enough body, especially when standing up, that a mountain lion is bound to be cautious.
This can change with small children or pets, given their much smaller size. Also, a fleeing human is unlikely to evoke much fear. But all in all, remember that with the proper posture, we can pose a threat that a mountain lion cannot ignore.
What Does This Tell Us?
It’s not that we can simply assume that we humans are the master race who can venture into the wilderness without any fear of mountain lions or other predators. Not at all!
A lone hiker, or a small group, may come across a mountain lion by complete happenstance. Not every mountain lion will be savvy enough to forego curiosity, not to mention hunger if s/he is in search of prey.
Finally, mountain lions tend to be super quiet when stalking, and they can run very fast (reaching speeds close to 50 mph). So should a big cat show up in your path, it would be unwise to disregard the possible threat and/or try to run away.
We can take comfort from the fact that there may be good reasons why a mountain lion may consider humans to be a handful. A hiker must do the right things in order to reinforce that possible fear factor, and to use props such as bear spray to disrupt a possible attack.
The verdict is clear. If you are going on a hike and there is the possibility that you may see a mountain lion, carry your bear spray and use it at the first hint of trouble.
Properly utilized, bear spray is much more effective than even a gun in staving off danger from an aggressive mountain lion.
There cannot be any excuse for you to not be prepared in this respect. Stay safe and enjoy the outdoors!