Utah Hikers Recount Terrifying Stand-Off with Mountain Lion

by Matthew Memrick

A pair of Utah hikers had a too-close-for-comfort encounter with a mountain lion on Wednesday.

Fox 13 reported that John Young and Kes Chauca were heading down Grandeur Peak Trail in Millcreek Canyon when they came across a lion.

After some quick thinking, the hikers moved toward the lion before continuing down the trail to safety.

Millcreek Canyon is approximately an 18-minute drive southeast of Salt Lake City.

A Dark Night For A Mountain Lion

Young, walking ahead of Chauca, saw a pair of green eyes and identified the animal on the trail.

The two wrapped up their hike, and around 8:15 p.m., they came across the mountain lion and her cubs.

At first, Young was excited to see the lion because he’s rarely seen them. But soon, that excitement turned to fear. 

While the website Wildlife Informer said California and Colorado have the most prominent mountain lion populations, Utah has a few too. The state’s department of wildlife resources estimated 2,700 adults, but other cougar researchers put that number closer to 1,600.

“I go out 2-3 times a week, and I’ve never seen a lion anywhere, so this was my first one,” Young told Fox 13. “I was really excited, but I also learned if you see a kitten, the mom is close by.”

And that was the case. The mountain lion stood there, protecting its cubs.

Remembering Mountain Lion Advice

Chauca told the TV station that she remembered a viral video from Provo on another mountain lion meeting. In it, the trail runner advised others to get big and loud to scare off the mountain lion. But, for some reason, this had the opposite effect.

The duo decided not to show fear. They banged branches and threw rocks while moving closer toward the animal but staying on the path.

The lion took a few steps back, and the two hikers headed down the trail slowly without an incident.

Young praised Chauca’s quick thinking and said the two were fortunate in not hiking alone that day. 

Mountain Lion Stalks Hiker

Chauca may have remembered a cellphone video from Kyle Burgess.

The 26-year-old Utah hiker caught six minutes of a near-fatal experience with another mountain lion last October. I’m warning you, there’s some tense moments and some obscene language in the video.

Hiking along a trail near his home, Burgess stumbled across a small cat. Soon after, he saw the mother cat and realized he was in danger.

The larger cat seemed to stalk him as he walked away from the cub.

“You see the two cubs and one kind of runs off, but then I didn’t notice mom was right there, and that’s when I knew it was not a good situation to be in,” Burgess said.

He told CBS he pulled out his cellphone and started recording the incident. In it, he tries his best to keep the animal at bay.

Minutes later, he’s able to throw a rock and scare the animal to run back to its family.

Kate Remsen, who works for the Living with Lions Project, said the mountain lion was not stalking Burgess but was trying to push him away from her cubs.