WATCH: Heart-racing mountain lion encounter caught on camera


Fresno, California — A nerve-rattling encounter with a mountain lion started with a fleeting glimpse of the big cat's tail on a High Sierra trail in California's wilderness.

Brian McKinney didn't believe it was a puma that his hiking partner Sam Vonderheide had seen, so he got out his phone and hit record as they followed the lithe creature.

The hikers slowly rounded a turn to see it peering down on them from a rocky perch just feet away.

Its ears were perked up, head cocked and eyes locked on them.

"What are you supposed to do?" one hiker whispered. The other answered: "I don't know. I don't think you're supposed to run."

McKinney said his heart races now seeing the video. 

"(I was) not only shocked, but alarmed that she had the advantage above me, which is what they do when they hunt," he said.

Rangers at Sequoia National Park on Monday posted link to the two-minute video captured July 23.

The clip ends with the hikers slowly backing away. But they said the encounter didn't end there.

'She just looked at us like she was entertained'

They waited for the cat to leave and tried rousing it from the trail, so they could continue on to the place they wanted to set up camp. The lion didn't budge.

"She just looked at us like she was entertained," he said. "So we gave up."

The two hikers then turned back and set up camp for a restless night's sleep in another area, their first of a nearly two-week-long hike up Mount Whitney, armed with only an ice ax and a bear whistle.

The next day, they had to cross the path where they had the encounter.

'Men were so shaken they had made goodbye videos for their loved ones'

The men were so shaken they had made goodbye videos for their loved ones. Vonderheide was armed with the ice ax, but the only traces they found of the mountain lion were the paw marks it left behind.

Wildlife biologist Daniel Gammons said the men did the right thing by staying calm. Biologists say you should make yourself appear big by waving your arms overhead and scare off the animal, as the men did.

"The big thing these visitors did right was that they didn't panic and run," Gammons said. "Probably the most important message to get out to visitors is not to act like prey if they encounter a mountain lion."

While the encounter was terrifying, McKinney said he and Vonderheide had discussed spotting a puma.

"When we started the trip, we sort of jokingly said, 'Wouldn't it be great if we saw the trifecta of a rattlesnake, a bear and a mountain lion?' " he said.

"And sure enough, we got our wish." 

What to read on Traveller24:

#KnysnaRises: Garden Route showcases the digital future of disaster response management

#NTSS: SA aims for inclusion in top 20 tourist destination in the world

PICS: Lunar eclipse over SA + 6 meteor showers to look out for

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
When assisting your child with remote learning this year, did you:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Follow the school's comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) curriculum?
14% - 105 votes
Adjust the CSE curriculum to suit the family's morals?
25% - 193 votes
Ignore the schools CSE programme and do your own teaching?
62% - 478 votes
Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo