TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. – A wildlife photographer and his hiking companion came face to face with a mountain lion in Trabuco Canyon, California, on Friday and have turned the close encounter into a teachable moment.
Mark Girardeau told The Orange County Register that he’s sharing the two minutes of video he shot of the duo staring down the wild cat so future hikers will now how to react if they encounter one of the predatory felines on a local trail.
“If I said I wasn’t scared, I’d be lying, but I had to kind of hype it up and make myself sound tougher,” Girardeau told KCAL, noting that the mountain lion “didn’t blink.”
“It was so weird, and we were so close. You could just see its eyes staring at us,” he added.
Girardeau told the OC Register that he and Rachel de Vlugt were checking cameras just before nightfall that he had set out in 2015 to document the “stealthy” cats in their natural habitat when humans are not around.
Unfortunately for the hikers, they were around when a female mountain lion named Uno, recognizable by her damaged eye, came running at them from down the hill, KCAL reported.
“By the time we looked over, the animal was already 5-to-10 feet from us. It was so close, it was just staring at us. It was basically a stare down,” Girardeau told the OC Register.
And while every instinct told the experienced wilderness wanderer to run, he opted instead to start recording the encounter and “stand my ground and make sure it backed off before we backed off” or else the mountain lion may have seen them as prey if they fled, the newspaper reported.
“We can’t outrun it. The best decision is to stand your ground,” he explained.
That’s precisely why Girardeau lowered his voice and began growling commands at the big cat to try and scare it off, KCAL reported.
Fortunately, the mountain lion lost interest in her would-be prey and moved away enough for the hikers to slowly back up the trail to safety.
“I’m pretty sure that was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced in my whole life,” de Vlugt told the TV station.
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