Mountain Lion Wooed By Opera

What should you do if you’re hiking in a remote area and you’re confronted by a large, aggressive mountain lion?

According to a woman in Colorado, make yourself look big and sing opera music!

Kyra Kopenstonsky, 40, of Placerville, Colorado, was hiking alone in the peaks near Telluride when she heard a twig snap—and turned to see a full-grown mountain lion 15 feet away and watching her, according to a report from the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office.

An experienced mountain hiker, Kopestonsky reacted appropriately, acting calmly and grabbing a large limb to make herself appear bigger than normal. But the lion kept moving toward her.

“I would back up and it would creep forward, so I’d stop,” Kopenstonsky told KUSA-TV. “Eventually, it sort of crouched down, like part way. So, I started backing down the mountain, which was really steep. And then it got up and walked toward me. At the closest point, it was 8 feet away.”

It was then she decided to try something totally different.

“I don’t know why, but I just started singing opera really loud,” she said. “It kind of put its ears down and just kept looking at me, and (then) it sort of backed away.”

After a few minutes of singing, the mountain lion lost interest and wandered off, ending the 30-minute ordeal and allowing Kopenstonsky to hike safely down to the trailhead where two deputies were staged. A sheriff and six deputies had responded to her earlier 911 cellphone call.

In a press release, San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters said in his 34 years in law enforcement there have been dozens of mountain lion “sightings,” but this was only the second “stalking” incident reported.

“We’re glad this turned out to be nothing more than a frightening experience for the hiker,” Sheriff Masters said. “She was obviously educated as to what to do in this unexpected situation.”

For the record, here’s what the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department recommends to do if you’re confronted by a mountain lion:

  • Allow the lion a way to escape. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation.
  • Face the lion, try to stay calm, do not run, as that might stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase and attack.
  • If the lion becomes aggressive, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it.
  • Do not turn your back to the lion or bend down.
  • Stand upright, grab a large stick if possible and raise your arms in an effort to appear larger, and back away slowly.
  • (And, appropriately) Sing or speak in a firm voice to help demonstrate that you are human and not prey.

We can only assume the Colorado game agency leaves the choice of music up to the person being confronted by the mountain lion. Ms. Kopenstonsky wisely surmised the cougar had never heard a mule deer sing a selection from “The Marriage of Figaro.”