Just ran into 3 mountain lions on a solo night bike ride


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Greg Barnes

Topic Author's Original Post - Oct 16, 2009 - 05:22am PT
And nearly four hours later I'm more jittery than right after almost getting creamed by rockfall.

No more solo night mountain biking at Henry Coe state park.

And what is up with the "mountain lions are reclusive and always avoid humans" thing? Two of the lions were about 80-100 yards ahead under a big tree (open, grassy ridge-top), and the other was only 20-30 yds ahead. That one jumped up and ran off as soon as I came over the rise, and it kept running, but the others just watched. I turned my night lights to super-ridiculously-bright mode, I could see them clearly, and I even took some flash photos to "scare" them (way, way beyond the range of the little point and shoot flash). They still took quite a while before they decided to get up and slowly walk the other way. If I had been a poacher it would have been no problem to bag either one.

I got pretty darn lucky - if it hadn't been for a flooded creek, I would have been coming down that trail at high speed, and the big ones were hanging out over a rise along a steep, loose section of the trail.

For Coe aficionados, it was near the top of the Spike Jones trail. Here's a close-up map for those interested, it was about at the 2200' contour: http://www.wlevey.com/coepark/maps/Tm3x4mi/HhEntWsnoPnd.htm


Trad climber
Sydney, Australia
Oct 16, 2009 - 05:35am PT
wow.. that's pretty awesome seeing three. sounds like a wild mountain bike ride.

i was standing at the bottom of nutcracker (in the valley) about a year ago and a mountain lion strolled right on by within about 10ft of us. he was staring at us the whole time. it was pretty cool as i've been told it's pretty rare to see them.


Oct 16, 2009 - 06:04am PT
what a great reward for getting out there in the dark. rockfall vs. cougar buzz? well ya, rocks aren't highly skilled, don't get hungry and make devious plans. red letter day, eh?

Social climber
Oct 16, 2009 - 07:28am PT
hey there greg... say, oh my.... :O

well for one thing, i am SURE glad you are still with us... :O

say, i remembe henry coe park.. but its been wayyyyyyyyyy long, since i been up there... kind of wildnerness, as i remember it from (hehe) hmmm, 35 years back, i reckon.... :O

well, it was not much of anything back then... but lovely great outdoors... :)

Gym climber
the ground up
Oct 16, 2009 - 07:29am PT
Are you sure it wasn't just two cougars, or maybe even one?

edit: Glad you are o.k.!
From my understanding:

Mountain Lions are relatively solitary and have large ranges.

Because of the other incidents of predation on bikers, it might be worthwhile to report it to Fish and Game or Fish and Wildlife.

If the cats were the same size, does it seem possible that it was the same cat based on the location and timing of the sightings? Were the sightings, far, far, then close?

Maybe someone should go up there with a paint gun, mountain bike, and something like this.

Credit: wack-N-dangle

If there is a spring at the top of the trail, it would be a good place for deer and cougar to hang out.

Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Why'djya leave the ketchup on the table?
Oct 16, 2009 - 09:25am PT
Greg... a mother and two maturing cubs perhaps? I don't recall that mtn lions congregate for much of anything really.


Ideeho-dee-do-dah-day boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom
Oct 16, 2009 - 09:37am PT
Read "Beast in the Garden" by David Baron (http://www.beastinthegarden.com/);. It will open your eyes to how reclusive the mtn lions really are.

It'll also open your eyes to some things about the People's Republic of Boulder, Colorado

The book reads like "Jaws".

Social climber
Oct 16, 2009 - 09:38am PT
you see the craziest things mtb'ing.

when i first moved to nc i was out riding the fletcher creek trail. fletcher creek has a couple of wildlife fields, which arew open spaces the forest service maintains for habitat. i was smoking through one of the fields, coming back into the forest when i saw something about 10 feet off to my left eating berries off some scrub. my first thought was "that's the bigget rottweiler i've ever seen" second thought was "dogs don't eat berries" and third thought was !@#$@#$!"

the bear reared up and did some crazy woofing sound and i laid my dekerf down and took of the other direction. after about 10 minutes of short-checking i ventured back and all that was left was bear tracks in the mud.

i've ridden at henry coe. what a beautiful remote place. i remember camping up on top of a hill and watching lightening storms over the sierras. incredible.


Trad climber
Morgan Hill, CA
Oct 16, 2009 - 11:00am PT
Mountain lions are usually pretty solitary so I would think a mother with cubs likely.

I have never heard of one relaxing when people are around. Some of the people who think they saw a mountain lion actually saw the much more common bobcat but if you say you saw lions, I believe you saw lions. One guy said he saw a lion on the Coyote Creek bike trail near Morgan Hill but when asked if it was 8 feet long it became clear it was one of the bobcats I had been seeing there for a couple years.
Thread here:

Lions are seriously big cats, 3 ft tall, 8 feet long, 100 lbs, almost twice as big as a German Shepherd. The bobcats that I have seen around Morgan Hill and at Henry Coe are very comfortable around people. I've seen them at Coe lounging in meadows in broad daylight as hikers passed.

Lions use stealth attacks from the back and usually bite the back of the neck. If you see them, I would think you are safe. Wear a helmet and a backpack to protect your back. Read this bicycle/lion attack story:
Patrick Sawyer

Originally California now Ireland
Oct 16, 2009 - 11:03am PT
On another thread about cougars/mountain lions, somebody posted a photo of three cats walking across some, I think, parking lot somewhere in Colorado. The pic didn't look doctored so if it was real they will travel in pairs or more, and as Dingus wrote, a mother and two adolescents perhaps?

Social climber
san joser
Oct 16, 2009 - 11:08am PT
Consider youself lucky. Most guys your age would be very happy to go out at night and have not one, but 3 cougars, interested in them.

I hear cougars like it when young men take their pictures....

Seattle, WA
Oct 16, 2009 - 11:20am PT
There is video of a mother and two cubs in one of the planet earth dvd's...the cubs look just as big as the mom.

Oct 16, 2009 - 11:24am PT
Man, that is freaking cool !

Riding a mountain bike is risky enough for me in the light of day though .. the prospect of breaking my neck again is extremely frightening.

Oct 16, 2009 - 12:17pm PT
No pics at all? Damn. (cry)

From the website:

"Coe Park is the largest state park in northern California, with over 87,000 acres of wild open spaces. The terrain of the park is rugged, varied, and beautiful, with lofty ridges and steep canyons. Once the home of Ohlone Indians, the park is now home to a fascinating variety of plants and animals, including the elusive mountain lion. "

There's a large rifle range on the outskirts of this city called tri-county rifle range, it's really the burbs, which has 3 Bobcats living there.
Greg Barnes

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 16, 2009 - 12:20pm PT
Guess I wasn't clear enough - 3 at once, the close one was 20-30 yds off, the other two were 80-100 yds under a tree.

Not bobcats.

Dingus is almost certainly right from what little I've read on their solitary habits. Plus that, on a mountain bike forum, another biker saw a small playful mountain lion cub on that trail in the same area last year (playing with a butterfly - how cool is that?), and saw deer parts along the trail.

Which reminds me - one time at the Windy Wall at the Buttermilks, we climbed there one day, came back the next, and there were fresh deer bones and lion tracks. Nice!

Also saw fresh mountain lion tracks at the creek just past Pratt's Crack one time. That was back when the forest service was warning all the residents of Rovana not to hike, run, or bike up the road by themselves.
Greg Barnes

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 16, 2009 - 12:39pm PT
Wack-n-dangle - what other incidents are you talking about? I thought that they'd determined that the 2-biker incident (in socal somewhere?) was the first guy died of a heart attack, the mountain lion found the body and was scavenging it, and the second biker came up and the lion was defending its food.
Fish Finder

Social climber
Oct 16, 2009 - 12:42pm PT

Where are the photos?

3 large males would not be hangin around shit(purring)talkin

Trad climber
primordial soup
Oct 16, 2009 - 01:29pm PT
closest i have come to seeing one of these cats is a single, huge, solitary track in the snow (among rocks etc) on the very bottom of the longest western descent of tenaya peak, kinda near to the clouds rest trail.

we were hiking up on TG weekend several years ago when a long dry spell had opened the road.

you are lucky, yes, in more ways that one!
Greg Barnes

Topic Author's Reply - Oct 16, 2009 - 01:31pm PT
The photos are useless black, it was 20 times the range of the flash - I took them hoping to get the eye reflections (nope) and to 'intimidate' them. I had taken some deer eye reflection attempt photos only 20 minutes before, and the deer were much closer - no luck there either.

They were not the same size - the one that was close was maybe 5-6 feet long (not including tail), the left one by the tree was really big (8'?), the right one by the tree was similar size to the close one. Probably mom and kids.
Hard Rock

Trad climber
Oct 16, 2009 - 01:54pm PT
I've seen mountain lions 3 times biking behind my house. It sure does get your attention. Coming downhill and quiet your on them quicker than you like. One of them took off downhill 90 degrees from the road. I swear it was the whole width of the road (with tail). Came up on a wolverine that way. Had a Griz walk through a inventory plot when I was working once. I was looking up but my dog told me to look down. Bear spray was in the rig. Glad he wasn't interest in me. Anyway, that wildlife sure can get in the way. My wife has had to cancel patients in the morning when the moose won't leave the driveway.

Anyway - enjoy the views - kurt
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