UPDATE: Read this first. Turns out there’s no evidence implicating a mountain lion.

Original post:
Guy walking a trail Saturday afternoon got pounced upon by a mountain lion, whose youth, enthusiasm and ineptitude saved the hiker’s life: The pounce knocked both of them down a ravine; the guy got stopped by a tree; the cat rolled down into a creek and took off. From this morning’s Chronicle:

The 50-year-old hiker was uninjured but narrowly escaped with his life after the cat leaped onto him from behind about 4 p.m. Saturday, sending man and beast tumbling down an embankment, Ryan said.

The Portola Valley man, whose name was not released, was hiking along a trail that parallels Los Trancos Creek, Ryan said, when the cat lunged at him from above, hitting the man about shoulder height and sending him rolling down the slope toward the creek.

The man tumbled about 15 feet before he hit a tree, which blocked his fall. Looking up, he saw the lion roll past him down to the creek, pick itself up and scamper away, Ryan said.

“He was very lucky,” said Ryan. “It was a legitimate attack in which the lion was going to kill the man.”

A professional tracker is supposed to be on the cat’s trail, which has, I suspect, gone pretty cold by now.

(Fortunately this could not have happened to most of us, because mere mortals who live outside the city of Palo Alto cannot enter Foothills Park … well, except by the way I went).

One voice of sanity among the “SAVE THE PRETTY KITTY!” peanut gallery of comments on the Chron’s story noted that taking a dog along might keep the big cats away. Of course, this would require you to a) own a dog; and b) hike the scant number of trails where pooches are allowed.

I think the best advice in regards to avoiding a big-cat encounter is to avoid looking like a deer and hope for the best. Mountain lions normally go to extravagant lengths to stay away from people (hence their avoidance of the California grizzly’s fate). There’s a good chance one has watched you pass on a trail (cats love to gaze at anything not standing still), but that doesn’t mean you were in any danger.

More on big-cat safety at cougarinfo.org.