A Utah man narrowly escaped an encounter with a cougar that lasted six minutes. The video of him backpedaling and trying different methods to get away from the mountain lion has gone viral and been viewed more than 330,000 times.
Kyle Burgess’ caption read, “(EXPILCIT) 6 minutes being followed by a cougar. sorry, not sorry for the language. I thought I was done for!” The incident took place in Orem, Utah, about 5 p.m. on October 10, according to his caption.
Burgess Was Hiking in Provo, Utah When He Encountered the Wild Cat
Burgess, 26, was out for a run, ostensibly enjoying the fall colors of Utah when he came across a cougar.
“Oh s***, oh s***,” Burgess could be heard saying on the six-minute video as he also growling as he backpedaled the Slate Canyon Trail, according to ABC-7. Burgess tried multiple phrases, including “Go away! Go away! Please go away” and “I’m big and scary” during his attempts to scare the mountain lion off. He also tried swearing at the big cat a number of times, telling it to, “get the f*** away.”
According to what Burgess told NBC News, he had inadvertently ran past the mountain lion’s four cubs, provoking its parental protective instinct; as the Humane Society warns on its website, “If there are cubs, be careful not to get between them and their mother.”
“Go away — go get your babies,” Burgess told the cougar at one point. During the six minutes it spent stalking him, the cougar also lunged at him — teeth bared — multiple times. “Come on, dude,” Burgess said during the video. “I don’t feel like dying today.”
Finally, Burgess threw a rock at the cougar which startled it into running away.
The outcome, for Burgess, was a best-case scenario. “I thought I was going to get hurt,” he told NBC News. I can’t explain what I thought was going to happen because this was all just crazy to me.”
The Mountain Lion Foundation Says the Animal Wasn’t Stalking Burgess & the Cougar Also Felt Threatened
“The encounter might have been avoided altogether, but once it happened, the runner did a lot of things right,” Denise Peterson, a Utah resident and region coordinator with the Mountain Lion Foundation, said in a statement from the organization. “But individuals and the media are getting a lot of things wrong, especially with social media posts and news headlines that claim the lion stalked the man. This was not predatory or stalking behavior.”
Debra Chase, CEO of the Mountain Lion Foundation, said of the cougar, “She clearly did not view him as prey. The behavior was meant to chase him away, which it did very well. The mother lion was reacting to a perceived threat to her young.”
Peterson added, “People can relate to the fear Burgess felt in that moment. But it’s important to remember that two creatures felt very threatened here: the human and the mountain lion.” Peterson said lions are ambush hunters and try to not be seen when they are hunting. In the video, the lion is behaving in a different way and clearly wants Burgess to see her and know she is protecting her kittens, the organization said.
“We need to counter the idea that mountain lions are naturally dangerous to humans,” Chase said. “The lion wasn’t looking for a conflict and she left the area as soon as she was able.”
Here’s How the Human Society Advises You Should Handle a Cougar Attack
According to the Humane Society, they advise that if facing a cougar, “Don’t run! Running will provoke the predatory chasing behavior of cougars, as it would with other predators such as bears, coyotes, and wolves.”
Other suggestions include picking up children and pets, facing the cougar while looking at its paws (and not in its eyes); yelling, blowing a whistle or making any other kinds of noise; raising your arms over your head to appear larger. If you are attacked, the Humane Society encourages people to fight back any way possible.
A 2019 report from Outside magazine noted that cougar populations have been steadily recovering from overhunting and poaching, due to conservation efforts. However, former Mountain Lion Foundation associate director Lynn Cullens said attacks from cougars are rare. “The only time that you’ll see an increase in cougar population density is if young cats are dispersed there,” she told the magazine. “If you’ve been outdoors in a place where cougars live, then you’ve been close to a cougar. They saw you, but you didn’t see them.”