Are you afraid of lions? You should be.
The most significant thing you can do to protect yourself is to arm yourself against the fear of attack. Fear leads to irrational behavior and imagined dangers. There’s a Boogie Man in everyone’s closet.
Become informed and don’t obsess about lions. Find out about the real risk you incur from exposure to lions as opposed to the imagined risk. People are much greater ‘experts’ on what they are afraid of than what they don’t want to take the time to learn about.
You’ll find there is a far better chance of death by dog or deer or bees or distracted drivers. Some people are afraid of Pit Bulls. I happen to be terrified of texting adolescents who veer into my lane on a canyon road, on their way home from a beer party.
Meteorites come in from on high at enormous speeds. If you get hit in the head by a 10 pound chunk of iron traveling through the atmosphere much faster than a speeding bullet, there won’t be much left of your head. BUT. I don’t see many people with 3 inch steel plates on top of their cars. Actions speak louder than words. If you Google “ meteor impacts” you’ll get pictures of hits on cars and houses by the way. Then there are flying saucer photos. By the way, there is still a government office that tracks asteroids. So my question is, why are people so terrified of lions?
There’s no doubt that if one attacks you, you’re in trouble. Remember that lions are very real and they are ambush predators. They stalk their prey from up-slope and behind and are able to leap 30 feet or more through the air before landing on the back of their prey, down below. They use their teeth to grab their prey by the neck and they hide unseen in the bush above the trail, waiting to pounce. They take a deer about once a week, eat their fill of fresh meat and then cover it with leaves and grass, hiding it from other animals.
Most people who hike the trails, actually live here in the mountains and/or drive through the mountains, are probably seen by lions on a regular basis. We just don’t know they are there. It’s the lions’ home, they live there too, they hide well and most important, they hide until you leave. When they freeze in the bushes, you cannot see them, they have excellent camouflage.
I have a video of a lion walking along and then stopping completely. It’s amazing how he just seems to disappear. They are, however, wild animals, have weaknesses, diseases and failures. But not for long. The weak ones are killed right away by fellow lions competing for territory and food. They have big teeth, huge claws and powerful muscles and know how to use them. And they are often hungry. And they are the alpha predators. And they are very defensive about their territory.
So what do you do if you see one in your back yard or on the trail, like some folks I have talked to?
- Don’t hike, bike or walk alone, you are more exposed to attack.
- Don’t make them think you are a deer, you don’t want to make them think you are prey. That means;
- Don’t crouch down or look four-footed, even if you didn’t mean to, as in tying your shoes or fixing a tire all by yourself.
- Don’t run.
- Do not in any way, trigger their ambush predator adrenaline rush.
- Don’t in any way trigger your own flight adrenaline rush. Animals will read you and react. If you like, I can comment on my interaction with a captive tiger at the San Diego Zoo.
- Also DON'T RUN!!!!
Yes , I know this is in “b” above, but it bears repeating. Lion’s chase and kill deer by out running them. Usain Bolt cannot out run a deer, and neither can I. Deer can exceed 35 mph. The world’s fastest man has reached only 27 mph in the first 10 meters. We are all, however, very capable of triggering a lion’s predatory adrenaline release by acting like fleeing prey. Don’t, you will lose the race.
- Take a big stick, pepper spray and/or an air horn when you hike.
- If you take pepper spray, learn how to use it and try it first. Also, pay attention to the wind and don’t spray into the wind. You can disable yourself in the face of an attack.
- If you use the air horn, you will startle everything and everyone within 100 yards.
- If you use the stick, jab and poke and hit like you mean it, but only if the lion attacks first. There are no Masai manhood trials in the SMMNRA, so spearing lions is not allowed. Although you could leap if you want!
- You probably will not see the lion first. If you do, have everyone reach up, wave your packs and sticks and shirts around and yell and scream. Not like you’re terrified but like you’re pissed-off. Be angry with the cat, it’s threatening your life. Remember, there have been people who have beaten lions off, and none of them were Masai.
- Work as a team, make yourself bigger together. You might even want to practice. If you do, you will be more confident. Animals, including your neighbor’s dog, read that and react.
- If you take your children with you on the trail, don’t let them wander off into the bush or run, at any time. Remember about the predator /prey thing. The best thing to do is to hold on to your kids. Don’t let go, not even once.
- Do your best to scare the lion off. We do not want them habituated to people. They and you are safer if they are afraid of people.
- Assault rifles are illegal in our parks, despite the best efforts of the NRA.
So lions are a threat. Understand what your risk of that threat is. Remember about the risk of lightning strikes, fighting dogs and Bambi and compare. Then do what I do, take a big stick. Mine has a fork on the end and it’s taller than I am. I’m certain that my chances of seeing a rattlesnake this year sometime, are pretty good. I actuality have not seen one this year, but I think I will, that’s why the fork is on the top of my stick. If I hold on to the bottom of the stick with both hands and extend the other end under the snake, I can flip it off the trail and send it down the hill. I can also back away from the snake and let it go away by itself. That’s what I have done several times, all over the SMMNRA, i.e., back off from the snake. My point is, be prepared and use your brains, don’t panic and deal with your problem before you hit the trail. If you see a lion, raise the stick up in the air and yell. Until you actually meet up with one, look out for rattle snakes, they have attitudes.
I go hiking with a friend in the Santa Monica Mountains pretty much every week, hot or cold, wet or dry. Last Thursday we went into the Peter Strauss Ranch area, hoping to see a lion, well I was. It is an area frequented by P-12 and P-13, so I took my camera. We actually found a lion scrape, I published a photo of it in my last blog article. A scrape is a mark in the dirt made by a cat, using its back paws to scrape the dirt backwards, covering its urine. We did hear a noise in the brush and I did look upslope.
My guess is that the noise was a ground squirrel or a Scrub Jay, they are pretty noisy scratchers. My friend Johanna Turner, the wildlife photographer who did the video, thinks the scrape was made by P-12, the dominant male in the area.
If you read my article on , find out how many people like my friends and I hike in the Peter Strauss Ranch area and the adjoining Upper Malibu Creek/ Bull Dog Trail. Ask the Rangers how many attacks there have been on people there in the history of the ranch.
Then plug your facts into my formula to find your risk. I talked to another ranch owner near Malibu Lake who insisted he sees lion tracks all the time near his corral. I have to get up there to get some more pictures. He was kind enough to invite me. He says his horses get funny in the night, sometimes. That’s when the lions wander about.
Fear, panic and hysteria have made a lot of people do some pretty crazy things and make some remarkable statements. My next article will be about getting along with our neighbors, both two and four-legged. I am going to publish some of my favorite NRA quotes.