Kyle Burgess was a few miles away from a run in Utah Slate Canyon on Saturday when he spotted what looked like four kittens near the trail. He stopped to take a video, not knowing what kind of animal they were but thinking they looked like bobcats.
He soon discovered he was wrong.
Just after Mr. Burgess turned on his camera, an adult mountain lion emerged from the thick brush.
I took three or four steps, and saw cougar mom, Mr. Burgess, 26, said in an interview on Wednesday. She made a crazy growl. I started to back away like crazy. I’m just backing off.
For the next six minutes, while Mr. Burgess recorded the chase in a video which was seen more than three million times, the animal chased after him as he walked up the trail, trying to both escape and confront the cougar by keeping an eye on her and filming as she went.
Video of the encounter, in the foothills of Utah County, fueled an Internet fascination with humans rubbing shoulders with beasts in the wild, and how or if people get out of it.
In the interview, Mr. Burgess, who grew up in Utah, said he believed the meeting could have gone a number of ways during those six minutes. Without formal training on wildlife, he winged it. He tried to stay calm, keeping a monologue within earshot of an animal that couldn’t understand a word but could tip the scales of its life.
Moments after Mr. Burgess first spotted the Mountain Lion, his stalking instinct seemed to kick in. The cougar crept briefly into the woods, as if trying to run over it.
Then she reappeared in the open air and walked towards him.
As Mr. Burgess stepped back, the cougar advancing in a determined pursuit, curses flowed. He called the cougar dude several times. He begged him to go get your babies.
I’m tall and scary, Mr Burgess said at one point. He tested his own roars.
He tried flattery: you’re a good little kitty cat.
But the mother cat was the whole maternal attitude. After about three minutes, she groaned, hopped off her hips, and charged Mr. Burgess, teeth bared and ears pinned back.
But the animal kept its distance.
It’s scary, Mr Burgess says in the video after nearly five minutes of oncoming cougar. My heart beats wildly.
Mr Burgess said he remembered being told to make himself look tall if he was faced with a wild animal. About six feet tall and 150 pounds, he tried, raising his arms.
But every time he took his eyes off the cougar, she would rush, he said.
Scott Root, the conservation outreach officer in the Utah Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, was alerted to the meeting on Saturday evening. A crew was dispatched the next morning to make sure the cougar and her cubs were no longer near the trail.
In his 30 years on the job, Mr. Root could not recall a fatal cougar attack in the state, where they hunted deer, especially in the area where Mr. Burgesss met him. occurred.
Such encounters are rare, as cougars are solitary hunters who tend to keep their distance from humans, he said.
Unless they defend their young.
Mr Root, who had seen Mr Burgesss’ video several times, said the mountain lion was making a series of attacks to scare him off.
Much of this behavior was similar to what a bear or moose would do, we call it a bluff charge, he said. Obviously, it’s becoming apparent that his # 1 goal was to get him out of the zone.
Looking tall, stepping back and making noise was helpful, he added. Maintaining eye contact can also work, he said.
But the wildlife is very unpredictable, he added.
Debra Chase, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation, noted that mountain lions are ambush hunters who try to stay out of sight when stalking. She said Mr. Burgess did the right thing by backing up, talking loudly and not running, but that baby animals should not be approached in the wild.
She clearly didn’t see him as prey, Mrs. Chase said in a statement. The behavior was aimed at driving him away, which he did very well. The mother lion was responding to a perceived threat to her cubs.
We need to counter the idea that mountain lions are naturally dangerous to humans, she said.
With about 15 seconds remaining in the video, the camera will jerk. Mr Burgess said during the interview that he felt there was enough distance for him to bend down and grab a rock, which he lobbed at the cat.
It was a turning point.
The cougar turned, walked away from him, and walked back down the trail. Mr. Burgess unleashed a few more curses and expired.
Then he turned the camera around. Look at this? he looked in the direction the cat had gone, along the path winding between the wooded hills. Yeah, said Mr. Burgess. I do not come back this way.
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