Watch: Mountain Lion ambushes hunter in Utah
A Utah bowhunter encountered her “greatest fear” while hunting an elk during the season opener Aug. 20. Laurien Elsholz, 23, was at the bottom of a ravine near the Stansbury Mountains in County Tooele when the smell of death caught his gag. Almost immediately, something came out of the brush and hit his leg.
“I heard crashing sounds and it all happened so fast,” Elsholz said. “I looked to my right and I was face to face with a mountain lion.”
She immediately hit the young cat on the head with her hiking stick, knocking it back a bit. By the time she analyzed what was going on, she realized the cat wasn’t completely deterred. She began shouting at her companions a few meters further up the ravine, urging them to stay away.
“I started backing up while making eye contact with him and backed into thick trees and couldn’t move forward so I was kind of trapped,” Elsholz said. “I was trying to figure out how to get around this cat without something happening, and it hit me four times. It jumped on me, whistled and said ‘get out of here.’
Elsholz acknowledges that the cat was probably just trying to protect a kill.
“He had just killed something and wanted me to get away from his food. I used my stick to hit him one more time and he backed off a bit, and that’s when I started recording.
The video shows the cat walking back and forth with its tail between its paws. Elsholz continued to scream throughout the video, and the cat starts walking towards her again just as the footage ends. According to Elsholz, the cat whipped again and she hit him with the stick a third time. She pushed to the right of the cat and started backing up the hill, facing the cat the whole time. Eventually, she and her sister, her girlfriend, and a few friends made it out of the woods, but not before the mountain lion followed them for about a mile.
Elsholz is grateful the interaction wasn’t more violent. But when she posted the video on Facebook, his experience has drawn much criticism. Some lamented in comments that the lion was completely calm and she was in no danger, and some chided her for not carrying a weapon.
“Cougars rarely attack people. To say that you are lucky to have made it out alive is a bit of an exaggeration. You are in lion country. This lion has shown no aggression towards you, so much so that you have been able to pull out your phone and check it in. You’re lucky you had the encounter,” one comment read.
Elsholz considers herself lucky, but also points out that coming face-to-face with a mountain lion in the woods is undeniably scary, no matter how calm the cat behaves. And as she explains, the cat wasn’t necessarily calm, as it hit and swiped at her multiple times when she hadn’t turned on her camera.
As for whether she should carry a gun or not, the avid shed hunter wants to get one at some point.
“I usually clip a large knife to my hunting bag and carry bear spray on the side, but that day I totally spaced out the fact that I had bear spray on because I I was so scared,” says Elsholz. “But I will look to get a gun because I would feel much safer going back to that mountain range.”