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On Tuesday a mountain lion found its way to an office courtyard in Santa Monica. It was killed after attempts to tranquilize it failed to stop it from trying to escape. Some are criticizing police for shooting the animal, but most members of the urban workforce don’t actually have any plan if they came in contact with a mountain lion (be honest). The chances of this happening in an office on the East Coast or the Midwest are almost nil, but it never hurts to be prepared.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks offers some advice on what to do if you cross a mountain lion, though it focuses on outdoor encounters: Don’t approach it, don’t run, don’t crouch. Instead, try to appear larger. If under attack, fight back with bear pepper spray, rocks, sticks, caps, jackets, garden tools, a firearm, or whatever you have at hand. And make sure to defend others.
If a mountain lion somehow manages to walk through your office building’s front door, get past a sleeping security guard, hop on the service elevator, and enter your sixth-floor office, here are a few tips:
1. The door is your best friend. “Close the door. That’s one thing you can do,” says Chris Vann, a wildlife biologist with the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection.
2. Don’t try to be a mountain lion whisperer. Just back away and get to safety. Elevator or stairs—both are fine; don’t think too long about it. Larry Ragonese, press director at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, says, “You run into the elevator and push the close button, but if the animal is chasing you, go into the stairwell and shut the door. Find the closest [stairwell] door, open it fast, one second, and then shut the door.” (See, the door is your friend.)
3. “Don’t throw anything at it. Just get out of the way,” says Ragonese. If it’s not attacking, “Don’t start macing it. People think they can walk up to an animal and gently deal with it. You can’t. Just get away from it.”
Lastly, am I at greater risk if there’s food on my desk? New Jersey residents are advised not to leave pies by windows, which might attract bears. This apparently does not just happen in cartoons. But “if you leave food at your desk, I don’t imagine a mountain lion would come through the window. The odds of you getting eaten by an animal at your desk are pretty remote. I wouldn’t lose sleep over it,” Ragonese advises.