Hiker and mountain lion engage in tense stand-off

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Cougars, also known as mountain lions, are legendary for their secrecy, and they’re rarely glimpsed in the wild. These solitary predators are so good at evading detection that it’s hard to pin down their population density at any given time.

They also have the distinction of being one of the few North American animals that has no qualms about attacking humans alone on a hike, and they’re responsible for a handful of deaths every year.

So it’s no surprise that Trevor Rasmussen, on day two of a hike on the Pacific Northwest Trail in Glacier National Park, was alarmed when he discovered that one of these sleek predators was nearby. Cougars prefer to hunt by surprise, jumping on the backs of their prey and clamping their powerful jaws around its neck before it can react. You can see that the animal in this video knows it has lost its element of surprise, and is now facing an even battle with a fairly large mammal.

“At first I thought it was a groundhog or something because all I could see was the butt end of the cat, and then I followed it to see a face looking at me,” Rasmussen said. “My reaction was to grab my camera and start filming.”

The stand-off ends peacefully, leaving only an incredibly rare close-up video of this apex predator. If you have plans to head to cougar country, never hike alone, make sure to carry a whistle, and you may even want to have a walking stick and pocket knife handy in case things escalate. While cougars can be aggressive, they are masters of hedging their bets, and they’ll back off if they feel unsure of victory. Be safe, and happy hiking!