Among the most successful predators in the Sierra Nevada, mountain lions are incredibly powerful animals who lead solitary lives. Also known as cougars, puma or panthers, these hunter mammals have all-over tawny-colored bodies with black-tipped ears and tails. Males average 130 to 150 pounds, with females weighing less than half that size. But make no mistake about it: these fierce, muscular cats of either sex can take down a full-grown deer or bighorn sheep.
Mountain lions once had a bounty on their head in California. Today they are protected by both state and national park laws. Although mountain lions have an incredible range, and are found at almost every elevation in the park, you're unlikely to see one. One reason is because these cats are most active at night. Another is because these hunters are skilled at camouflage. If you do happen to see a mountain lion, it has probably already had its eye on you for some time.
Mountain lion attacks are rare, but not unheard of in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Smart tips for avoiding encounters with mountains include: not hiking alone; keeping children close to you at all times; and avoiding positions that make you look like prey (e.g., crouching, bending down or over). If you notice a mountain lion, do not run away. Make yourself appear as large as possible, keeping children at your side, and waving your arms slowly above your head. To convince the lion you are not prey, speak in a loud firm voice, make eye contact, and throw sticks or stones while remaining upright. If attacked, fight back.