Ever met a lion before? Behind bars and in the safety of a safari cruise, they can be pleasant to view.
But it’s a different story if you meet one inch close to you with no steel barrier or tour guide.
This is why you need to know how to survive a lion attack or, even better, avoid an encounter with one, especially if you’re outdoorsy.
A lion attack can be frightening, and that’s understandable. However, the first best decision to make is to remain calm.
If you run, this creature will outrun you, and you stand a better chance at trying every other step below.
Read on to learn how to deal with lions in the wild and ways to prevent an encounter with them.
Lions: An Overview
Lions are wild relatives of domestic cats, being a member of the Felidae (cat) family.
It also belongs to the Panthera genus. Lions can only be found in Africa and Asia (specifically India).
They used to be more widespread, but the species in North America got extinct.1
Preferred habitats include grasslands, savannas, and shrublands.
Males and females are very different, with the former sporting a mane that the latter doesn’t have.
They both have brown skin and are large, though males are larger. Lions are apex predators in their range, so they have few enemies except humans.
Finally, lions are social species that move in pride. The pride consists of more females that hunt, with a few males who are the leaders.
They are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN due to factors like human-animal conflict.
Are Lions Dangerous?
As apex predators, lions pose enormous threats to prey within their range and humans as well.
These animals are considered one of the most dangerous in the world, surpassed only by a few other animals like the tiger.
Lions mainly hunt big animals like deer, wildebeests, buffalos, and even giraffes.
Lions don’t make it a habit to attack humans. However, they are predators and sometimes see people as prey.
Lions are also responsible for up to 100 human fatalities yearly, making them among the most dangerous animals in the world.
How to Survive a Lion Attack – 8 Effective Tips
You’re more likely to see a lion while on a trip to certain countries in Africa.
Lions are not always willing to attack, but sometimes they may go after the nearest human if they’re hungry or their hunting instincts kick in.
Below are seven effective tips for surviving a lion attack:
1. Don’t panic or flee
This is a crucial step. Lions are frightening, and the first thing you might think to do in this situation is to run.
However, running puts you in a bad position. Lions easily outrun humans for a start.
They’d also consider you as prey if you ran, and being in a panic makes it hard for you to strategize.
Thus, though this is counterintuitive, do not run or panic. Try to remain calm.
Take deep breaths to steady your nerves, and do not take your eyes off the lion.
2. Step back slowly
With your eyes on the lion, retreat step by step and with ease. A fair warning, keeping your eyes doesn’t mean you should stare at it directly.
If you do this, it might consider you a threat. Just ensure you still see it as you move it.
Gauge its body language. If it is pawing the ground, then you’re fortunate as it won’t attack you.
If its tail is wagging, it feels threatened. If it stands very still, then it’s about to attack.
3. If it charges, remain standing
A lion might first size you up, then attempt a mock charge. Again, do not run.
You’d only be giving it the thrill of a chase, and as a hunter, it’ll be like that. Usually, the mock charge is to get its prey on the move.
Don’t fall for the trap.
4. Yell to drive it off
You want the lion to see you as strong, not weak. Lions can sense fear, another reason you shouldn’t run.
When it tries to get closer, flail your arms and YELL AS LOUD AS YOU CAN.
Ensure your arms are raised so you’d look bigger than your attacker. If it turns away, stop yelling and walk in the opposite direction.
5. If that doesn’t work, fight back
Sometimes being threatening won’t work, and the lion will attack anyways. When that happens, you should fight back.
This is also counterintuitive but the best way to survive. Lions like to go after the throat, which means it’ll jump.
Do not crouch, as this puts you in a disadvantaged position. Punch at the lion’s face or kick it when it comes within that proximity.
6. If you do panic and run, don’t run in a straight line
What if you panic and run instinctively? Again, lions run faster than the fastest human, so don’t think you can outrun it.
The only way to survive a lion chase is to follow the “deer style.” Rather than run in a straight line, take sharp turns to slow the lion down.2
7. Get medical help
Encounters with wild animals often injure a person, even if they survive. It might be a scratch from the lion that landed on your arm.
After the lion leaves, seek immediate medical help, whether you got injured or not. It’s best to be safe.
8. Get psychological help
Lion attacks can be traumatizing, even more than other animals.
Thus, you might want to consider getting psychological help through therapy, especially if you’ve been showing signs that you’ve been scarred.
These signs include nightmares and panic attacks.
How to Avoid Encountering A Lion
As the cliche goes, prevention is better than cure. If the tips above sound difficult for you, that’s because surviving a lion attack is not an easy feat.
It is better to avoid encountering these animals than to try and fight one. For that reason, we add some preventive measures you can take. They include:
1. Be more careful at night
Like other cats, lions tend to be nocturnal and hunt at night.
Reduce nightly activities and keep watch in an environment filled with these creatures.
2. Do not approach cubs
Baby mammals are usually cute, and lion cubs are no exceptions. You might be tempted to approach and even pick up one.
But where there is a cub, there’s often a lioness prowling close by, and she’s very protective of her babies.
If you see a lion cub, move away from the area. If it looks lost, you can contact the right authorities.
3. Stay away from mating lions
Mating lions are very aggressive and territorial, so if you see them from afar, get away as fast as possible.
Lions have no particular mating season, so you can randomly come across mating individuals at any time of the year.
- Unless you have no other option, do not kill the lion. These animals are classified as vulnerable, and the population keeps declining.
- Do not play dead if you see a lion; you’ll only end up dead.
- Do not try to take away a lost cub, even if you know the mother isn’t around.
Related: How To Survive A Cougar Attack
Surviving a lion attack can be difficult, especially as our instincts push us to run first rather than stand down and fight back.
This is why we advise you to prevent any encounter with them.
You can also protect yourself with some non-lethal weapons like a dart gun or spray. You can also scare them away with a rifle.