Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hi there! Welcome and thank you for stopping by…do you have any questions?

I often find that February is a month of deep self-reflection for me. I thought it would be pertinent and informative for the public-at-large if I documented some of this month’s ponderings.

And so, without further ado, I would like to present:

February’s Contemplations and Ruminations – a 10 part series”

This series will be presented here in full and can also be seen in its edited form at the Santa Barbara Museum of Modern Art from February 28th to March 7th. Opening night gala and red carpet begins @7PM, Feb 28. For more information please visit www.sbmoma.org. Press contact: Mary Stuartson (805) 453-2675.

Part One.

Q: Will I be ready and able to defend myself when I am attacked by a mountain lion?

For those of you that are avid hikers in the Santa Barbara Foothills, you are probably already aware that there is a 95% chance that you are going to encounter and possibly be attacked by a mountain lion at some point in your hiking career. Well, that might not be exactly true, but in public speaking that’s what we call the ‘attention getter.’ Regardless of the actual likelihood of a head to head (or should I say claw to jugular) fight with a puma, I think it’s important that you know some basic mountain lion facts and defense tips.

The absolute most important thing I can say to you is: always be aware of your surroundings. When mountain lions attack, they are usually coming at you from behind. They are often perched up in a tree or waiting for you at a rock outcropping. It is essential that you are always scoping out the trees ahead of you whilst you are on your hike (this can be done by utilizing Dan Beckman’s 3-point tree scoping triangulation technique). But looking ahead might not be enough, when I’m hiking I usually take 100 steps facing forward and then turn around and back-peddle for 25 steps. This allows me to take in a 360-degree view of the terrain I am about to cover as well as the trail behind me. Remember, a mountain lion attack is not the same as a velociraptor attack which involves 3 velociraptors (one coming at you from the front and the other two on either flank) and is basically impossible to survive. When you’re facing a mountain lion, it’s going to be a one on one type scenario that you just might be able to pull off if you’ve got your wits about you.

If you are unable to bring your pitbull with you because she is recovering from budget-breaking knee surgery, please do consider carrying a knife (a good example of an appropriate knife is pictured above). The entire time you’re hiking you should visualize yourself being attacked by a mountain lion in a variety of situations so that you are as prepared as possible. For example, let’s say you’ve just turned a blind curve on Tunnel Trail and you’re hiking on a 25º angle when all of the sudden you’re pummeled into by a 112-pound female cougar. She has pounced on you from a perch in a tree 10 meters behind you and 5 meters above you, moving at a velocity of 9.2 m/s and, by my calculations, hitting you with about 4800 lbs of force. In this case, you will most likely be knocked off of your feet and you and the mountain lion will roll and tumble for about 25 meters. These are the most crucial moments in terms of chances of survival! Because you’ve been visualizing this exact scenario, you know that you have 2 seconds to reach into your pocket, pop open your knife, and try to do as much damage as possible. Once the fight goes past this point, it’s really just up to the stars whether or not you’ll make it down the mountain alive.

By no means is it my intention to frighten you or deter you from enjoying a leisurely hike on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I’m just trying to turn you into a more aware consumer of nature. As the boy scouts always say: “Always be prepared when hiking alone in the Santa Barbara foothills – AKA the Northern Pacific Man-Eating Cougar Greenbelt.” (Their other lesser know motto is: "For christ sake, we should sell cookies too!).

(these tips are adapted from my new book – Basic Mountain Lion Defense Tips, Random House Publishing 2011®)


Michelle said...

You are toooooo much Trace! Loved it!

Katie Manson said...

Oh Tracy how I have missed your blogging!

Anonymous said...

...or one could stay home and watch Fatal Attractions on Animal Planet, about mentally-impaired people who own inappropriate pets. I do and I keep my REI Swiss Army knife nearby.

Chart said...

My sister saw a mountain lion in Marin last month. Would that incident be related in any way?

Anonymous said...

I will be hosting a seminar on how to avoid cougar attacks in the Marina district of San Francisco if you would like to attend.. free cupcakes will be provided.