During many years in Peninsula de Osa, I’ve heard stories of pumas chasing people down or facing people on the trails by sitting in front of them in challenging behavior, looking for a clue of weakness to attack.
I was born on a property bordering Corcovado National Park, at Los Planes Ranger Station area, it was in 1987, and the only neighbor we had at the time was 15 minutes away from home. It was very isolated and the only way to move around was by horse or on food, and my family was 1 of the first 5 families to reach that area when it was only forest and wild animals.
I heard my first stories from my mom when I was very little, the first one was when a puma was stalking me in front of my house, we had a hunting dog named Chester, and it saw the puma coming after me, so it ran towards it to defend me, but it was chained and when the chain got pulled by the dog it made a loud sound and scared the puma away.
Then I also heard stories of pumas following pregnant women, it was believed they had an attraction to them. There were also stories of pumas chasing children, and others of pumas challenging people by simply standing on the trail in front of them.
My First Encounter With a Puma in Corcovado National Park
When a first saw a puma (that I remember) when I turned 23 and was visiting Corcovado National Park very often, always with other older guides to get the experience needed to be able to perform as well as possible.
It was during summer, maybe March because it was very dry. We were walking with other tourists, observing and taking pictures as well as listening to the information given by the leading tour guide, when monkeys started making a noise I had not heard before, the guide said it was the alarm the monkeys displayed when a predator was seen by them, we opened our eyes towards the sound, and soon we saw a puma running through the bushes.
This time there was no chance to take a photo or to really appreciate the shape of the puma, but it was a moment that made me happy.
My Encounters with Pumas as a Tour Guide in Corcovado National Park
After so many stories, I developed a certain fear of pumas. I always wanted to find them because it meant a huge experience for my clients and I did my best to find one, following prints, the sounds of the monkeys, and looking in the areas where they had seen one before.
With time, I developed an excellent sense to find pumas and even recognized their smell and knew where some of them when to rest very often which made pressure on me because some tourists wrote about my skills, and they looked for me for that reason to do Overnight Tours in Corcovado.
I also learned how to read them and see whether they were stressed by my presence or not. Some pumas did not care at all, while some others got a bit concerned about me and the tourists.
What to do if a puma attacks you
The only cases I heard from tour guides of real puma attacks who visited the park since 1995 were 2 and no one got really hurt, only terrified! So, my conclusion is that, due to all the experience I have had, I dare to say that it is very unlikely that a puma attacks you and it is even more unlikely with the companion of a local tour guide who knows the behavior of the animals and would know how to proceed with the different reactions of pumas.
Here are some of the techniques used to get rid of the big cats:
- Don’t run away, you don’t want to trigger the animal’s predatory instinct.
- Don’t give your back to the feline, it would give it the chance to bite your neck.
- You can lift your arms to look bigger.
- Pick up a branch.
- Some people mention that shouting hard helps.
- If under attack, fight back, Tour guide Bolivar recommends kicking it as hard as possible (by his own experience).