Cougars, also known as mountain lions, pumas or panthers, is a large cat found in North America. This animal is elusive while hunting. It will stalk, hide and then pounce on its prey when the time is right. This cat can weigh in at about 140 lbs on average, however it may be much higher. It is also about the size of an adult human being, and pound for pound a cat is formidable. Females are smaller than the males.
Small as well as larger animals which includes livestock may become a prey to this cat. Young children are particularly vulnerable in mountain lion territories. Keep your children close to you at all times if you happen to go in an area where this cat lives and hunts.
Prevention is always the best medicine when it comes to animals. Generally if you leave them alone, they'll go out of their way to avoid a human being when it sees, hears or smells one come along, and the same goes for the mountain lion. However, there are exceptions so you need to be prepared for that should an encounter happen.
Have a look at BC Parks for more information on hiking in cougar (and bear) country. They have a handy pdf to look at.
A proper walking formation when in the wild is yours to consider. Cougars often attack from behind, so whether it should be the man first with the woman in the rear and the children in-between or the man in the rear with the woman in the front with the children in-between is up to you.
Attacks may occur from the front or side as well. The main thing is
to remember that your children WILL be eyed on as prey by a cougar.
Teach your children to never run away from you if an animal appears. If your children run off in every direction they make for an easier target for an opportunistic hunter.
Also, it is important that your children do not grasp your hands thereby preventing you from fending off the animal if you had to. Their holding on to your hands also prevents you from making yourself look big before the animal. With a mountain lion making yourself look big can help. Avoid bending over to pick up your children if you pick them up.
Obviously you should never approach or feed a mountain lion. Respect this animal as you should with a bear or a moose etc. If you see a cougar, slowly back off but never run. If need be, yell, shout and throw things at it while making yourself look big if the cat behaves in a menacing manner. If it attacks you, fight it with all you've got and use anything at your disposal to beat it off.
Here are some links to help you learn more about cougars.
1. Wikipedia - Cougar
2. Washington Nature Mapping Program - Cougars