Does Bear Spray Work On Mountain Lions? What About Pepper Spray?

Cougars, pumas, mountain lions – whatever you call them, you probably don’t want to run into one when you’re out.

These predators are renowned for their stalking ability and kill their prey with a bite to the spinal cord. 

Does Bear Spray Work On Mountain Lions? What About Pepper Spray?

While it sounds scary, try not to worry too much. Mountain lion attacks are incredibly rare, and these animals aren’t present in every state.

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States like California, Colorado, and Arizona are known for their healthy populations.

So, if you live there, you might be wondering how you can protect yourself while out on the trail. 

The good news is, both bear spray and pepper spray will work on a mountain lion!

If you want to find out more about these defense tactics, stick around. We’re going to go through everything you need to know. 

Does Bear Spray Work On Mountain Lions? What About Pepper Spray?

Using Bear Spray Against Mountain Lions

Bear spray is very effective against not only bears, but just about all large carnivores!

The magic ingredient in this stuff is capsaicin – an active component found in chili peppers. This will act as a strong irritant that will cause the animal to make a retreat. 

However, you need to know how to use bear spray in order for it to be effective.

It’s always recommended to practice with it before actually heading out on the trail with it. If you don’t know how to use it, it might just end up being useless!

Here are some important things to remember about bear spray:

  • Look for bear spray that is effective at a distance. It needs to have a good spray distance.
  • Never spray into the wind, or else the bear spray will simply blow back into your face. You will end up injuring yourself.
  • Practice using the bear spray before taking it out so that you know exactly what to do with it.
  • If you can, spray the animal as directly as possible. A good spray to the eyes or nose can save you.
  • Always keep the bear spray in a location that you can easily reach in a hurry. 

Can You Use Pepper Spray on Mountain Lions?

Does Bear Spray Work On Mountain Lions? What About Pepper Spray?

The same rules apply to pepper spray. Anything with a sensitive nose or eyes will not enjoy being sprayed with something like pepper spray.

Like bear spray, the miracle ingredient in pepper spray is capsaicin, which is found in chile peppers. 

Pepper spray will have the same effect as bear spray on an animal. However, standard pepper spray is not the best defense against mountain lions or bears. 

We will look at why in the next section. 

With that being said, pepper spray can still be a highly effective way of defending yourself, whether you come into contact with a cougar or something else. Like bear spray, you should always: 

  • Try to find a pepper spray that is effective at a distance. It needs to have a good spray distance. This is not always possible for this kind of product.
  • Never spray into the wind, or else the pepper spray will simply blow back into your face. You will end up injuring yourself.
  • Practice using the pepper spray before taking it out so that you know exactly what to do with it.
  • If you can, spray the animal as directly as possible. If you can spray the animal directly in the eyes or nose, it will likely retreat, and you and leave the area once it’s gone.
  • Always keep the pepper spray in a location that you can easily reach in a hurry. 

Which Is Best?

Pepper spray isn’t as strong as bear spray (a standard pepper spray has around 1 million SHUs, while bear spray has around 3 million SHUs).

Not only that, but standard pepper spray doesn’t have the same reach that bear spray does, and it doesn’t spray as wide. 

Typically, standard pepper spray does well at close contact. The upper limit for effective pepper spray use is around 10 feet.

Bear spray, on the other hand, can be used effectively at up to 30 feet or more, and is dispensed in a wider and more forceful manner. 

What Else Can You Do To Protect Yourself From A Cougar Attack?

Preventing a Cougar Attack

Knowing if there is a cougar in the area will be your first step to preventing an attack. Here is a list of things that you should look out for while on a trail:

  • Perfect cougar prey – seeing any kind of animal that would be ideal for a cougar to prey on (sheep, deer, or anything similar are perfect for cougars)
  • Animal carcasses in the area – seeing animal carcasses, whether they are old or fresh.
  • Mountain lion feces – seeing mountain lion feces or scat is a surefire sign that there are mountain lions in the area. 
  • Cougar tracks – seeing cougar tracks in the area is another worrying sign that you could be in danger. 

If you see a mountain lion, you should:

  • Remain calm and don’t make any sudden movements
  • Back away from it (never run or turn your back) if it hasn’t seen you
  • If you’ve been spotted, DO NOT RUN. Give the animal the chance to leave
  • Keep your eyes on the cougar
  • Make yourself look as big as possible
  • DO NOT dent over or turn away to retrieve anything 

If you notice the animal starting to become aggressive, or it comes towards you, then do the following:

  • Speak firmly and loudly, clap slowly and loudly, or hit two sticks together 
  • If you can, throw rocks towards it
  • Use your bear or pepper spray if it’s in range
  • Prepare to fight the animal off. Make sure to protect your neck and head.
  • Fight the animal off and stay on your feet. Use anything you have. People have fought off a cougar with a pen before!

Final Thoughts

Both bear and pepper spray are effective tools against a cougar attack, but bear spray has a better range.

Both are likely to make an animal retreat if you spray it in their eyes or nose. However, it’s always better to prevent an attack than have to deal with one.

Use the above tips to help you and others stay safe while out.

Always remember to stay vigilant when you are out, because a cougar will see you long before you see them 99% of the time. 

Joe Edwards
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