A tour guide in Yellowstone National Park stumbled upon a stunning moment between predator and prey and filmed the incredible encounter.
Andrea Baratte, a guide with Yellowstone Adventure Tours, posted the video to his Instagram account on April 10.
Set to a cinematic soundtrack, the video shows a mountain lion lying down at the base of a large tree as a bull elk approaches. Both animals notice each other — with the mountain lion keeping its eye on the elk as it approaches, then glancing away when the elk raises its head to peer through tree branches toward the cougar.
“Wow, what a day!” Baratte wrote in the video caption. “I am still speechless.”
Baratte said he had heard that a mountain lion had hunted a bighorn sheep the day before, and he felt sure he would be too late to see anything by the time he made it to the area. He was “obviously very wrong,” he said in the caption.
“The mountain lion had a full belly and was napping as this bull elk approached,” Baratte said. “Both were aware of each other. The cat never showed any interest.”
Text over the video says “the encounter ended peacefully.”
It’s quite rare to see mountain lions in Yellowstone, according to the National Park Service. Predator-removal campaigns in the early 20th century nearly eliminated mountain lions from the area, but the secretive species has survived off its “cryptic nature and preference for rocky, rugged territory where the cats are difficult to track.”
They bounced back by the early 1980s, and today there’s between 34 and 42 across Yellowstone’s northern range, though they’re “seldom seen,” the park service said.
People who watched the video seemed as incredulous as Baratte was about the rare interaction.
“What an incredible capture! Thanks for sharing,” someone said.
“They avoid eye contact. Good manners,” someone else joked.
Another person asked whether a mountain lion would go after prey as big as the elk.
“It would have to be a large strong cat,” Baratte replied. “For sure possible though.”
“There’s a lesson here,” someone else said. “Take only what you need.”
What to do if you see a mountain lion
Mountain lions are typically “calm, quiet and elusive,” according to the National Park Service. While attacks involving mountain lions are rare, they are possible.
“Even so, the potential for being killed or injured by a mountain lion is quite low compared to many other natural hazards,” the National Park Service said on its website. “There is a far greater risk, for example, of being killed in an automobile accident with a deer than of being attacked by a mountain lion.”
Officials said there are some things you do take to prevent a mountain lion encounter from becoming an attack.
Stay calm and back away slowly.
Face the lion and stand up straight.
Don’t approach a mountain lion, especially if it’s with kittens.
Don’t run. It could stimulate a mountain lion’s chase instincts.
Pick up small children so they don’t panic or run away.
Don’t bend over or crouch down.
Throw things at the mountain lion if it continues to move toward you.
If the mountain lion attacks, fight back using anything around you.
Report all sightings, encounters or attacks to local park rangers or law enforcement.