A protective mountain lion chased a man running on a hiking trail in Utah last week for six minutes — a scary encounter he captured on video.
Kyle Burgess, 26, took out his camera to film what he thought was a bobcat when a mountain lion jumped out of the bushes and started advancing towards him.
Newspaper articles of the now-viral video have prompted criticism from wildlife experts who said they framed the story as if the mother had “attacked” or “stalked” Burgess even though she was only protecting her cubs.
“She did not stalk him. If she was stalking him, he would never have seen her. She’s really just trying to get him out of the area,” a wildlife biologist from Utah told Insider.
Burgess told Insider that he wanted to take a picture of what he thought were bobcats, but he realized they were baby cougars when he got closer.
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A protective mountain lion mother chased a man for six minutes after getting too close to her cubs while trail running in Slate Canyon, Utah, last week — a scary encounter he captured on video.
Kyle Burgess, 26, was running in Slate Canyon, Utah, on October 8, when he stumbled upon what he thought was bobcats and wanted to take a video.
As he realized the bobcats were cougar kittens, their protective mother jumped out of the bushes and advanced on him in an attempt to push him out of their territory.
Throughout the tense six-minute-long video, the 26-year-old continues to yell and swear at the cougar while she occasionally hisses and lunges at him.
Finally, Burgess manages to throw a rock at her prompting her to run away.
Watch the scary encounter below:
The video of the encounter went viral but received criticism from wildlife experts over news organizations that framed the story as the cougar “stalking” Burgess when in reality, she was just protecting her babies.
John “Griff” Griffith, a local naturalist and guide for California State Parks, called out media organizations in a recent Facebook video for “sensationalizing” the story and writing headlines that make it sound like the mountain lion was attacking Burgess.
“You know what else is not true? Is all the headlines that were around the video saying that she was ‘stalking him’. I know a little something about mountain lions. That was not a mountain lion stalking. That was a mama mountain lion trying to get someone away from her cubs. There is a difference,” Griffith said.
Nicki Frey, a wildlife biologist with Utah State University Extension, who has watched the video more than a dozen times, agreed with Griffith, telling Insider: “She did not stalk him. If she was stalking him, he would never have seen her. She’s really just trying to get him out of the area.”
“If you’re being stalked, once you see the mountain lion, you’re probably almost dead,” she added.
Frey also said that the lunging and hissing seen in the video is normal behavior for mountain lions who are trying to protect their babies and scare away other animals.
“What she’s doing there is a bluff charge, to intimidate and try to scare him. It’s kind of an indication that she sees him as her equal. It’s similar to what she would do to any other mountain lion,” she said.
“She does see him as a threat but doesn’t seem him as less than her. So it’s almost an indication that she’s unsure of how much danger or damage he could do to her. The hissing is a part of that bluff charge,” Frey added.
One aspect of the cougar’s behavior that still has Frey and other wildlife experts puzzled is that the face-off lasted for six minutes.
“Doing that for six minutes is not normal behavior from the cougar. The only explanation that I have for that was her territory and she was walking him out of her area. I never heard of an animal taking that much time to get a human out of there, so that’s why I think she was just being a super mom and escorting him out,” Frey said.
When Insider approached Burgess to explain what had happened before the video started, the 27-year-old said that he mistook the cubs for bobcats, which is why he got too close and probably angered the mother.
“While I was running, I saw little animals in the distance just thinking that they were bobcats. I see bobcats on this trail all the time and didn’t think much of it,” Burgess told Insider.
“Whenever I see wildlife while I’m out for a run or hike, I always pull my phone out and take videos and pictures, so I pulled out my phone and started recording. But when I got closer, that is when I realized that they were not bobcats, but baby cougars, and once I processed this in my head, mama cougar had already come running around the corner,” he added.
Frey, who regularly hikes around her area, told Insider that whatever happened to Burgess “could have happened to anyone.”
“If the kittens weren’t on the trail, she would have let him run by and he would have never even known there was a mountain lion there,” she said.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) also posted Burgess’s video on its Facebook page praising him for doing the right thing during the situation.
It also posted several tips on what to do when you encounter a cougar on a hiking trail, which includes maintaining eye contact with the animal, making yourself bigger by “raising and waving your arms”, and talking in a “loud” and “firm” voice.
If you do end up being attacked by the animal, Wildlife Resources suggested “fighting back” and “protecting your neck and head,” according to the post.
“He [Burgess] stayed large and he stayed loud and he backed away from the area for quite a while and I think he did everything really well,” Scott Rude, a local DWR officer later told KSL News.
Cougar attacks on humans are rare but have increased in recent decades, according to a study published in the scientific journal “Ecology and Evolution” in 2019.
In March last year, another jogger was running in Horsetooth Mountain Park in Colorado when he was attacked by a mountain lion, which he subsequently killed by jamming his foot into the lion’s neck and suffocating it.
According to wild-cat experts, hunting may play a role in these dangerous encounters as mountain lions that get killed can leave behind orphaned cubs that get hungry enough to go after humans as prey.
“It has been great to hear what the wildlife experts have to say about everything that went down because I am no expert and just did what I felt like I needed to do at that moment,” Burgess told Insider.
“I have actually been in contact with some of the experts that have come out with educational tips from my experience and have loved getting to know more and educating myself.”
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