Mountain Lion Stalks Behind Elk Hunter

Viral Photo is a Fake Composite

Elk Hunter and Mountain Lion
Elk Hunter and Mountain Lion Viral Photo. Unknown - circulating via email

Was an elk hunter in North Dakota being stalked by a mountain lion but didn't realize it until he checked his trophy selfies the next morning? The viral image circulated by email in 2010, coinciding with hunting season. But the hunter was likely in no danger as the image is a composite and therefore a hoax. 

Description: Viral image / Hoax
Circulating since: Oct. 2010
Status: Fake 

Text Example of the Email Spreading the Elk Hunter/Mountain Lion Photo

Email from Nov.

2, 2010

FW: spectator

This is freaking scary. As you know I was alone when I downed this elk in ND. I was using my camera’s timer attached to my shooting stick to give me enough time to get into the picture. I knew there were a lot of cats in the area but had no idea they would come in this close to people. He had to be within 10 feet of me and I didn’t even know it. I about crapped my pants when I looked at the pictures the next morning and saw he was there.

Analysis of the Mountain Lion Behind Elk Hunter Photo

False. Both the photo and the story are fabrications. If you look closely at the composite image, you will see that the light on the cougar clearly falls from a different direction than that on the hunter. That is a tell-tale sign that the image was doctored.

The image was created by pasting part of a 2008 photograph of a cougar in California taken by self-styled "Camera Trap Codger" Chris Wemmer into another photo (origin unknown) of an elk hunter posing with his trophy kill.

Trail cameras have become popular with hunters as well as nature-lovers. Wemmer says he is a native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, and retired Smithsonian scientist. He has been blogging for more than 10 years and he participates in the Sierra Nevada Mammals Workshop.

Real Mountain Lion Advice

If the image were real, the hunter would have been doing a few things that aren't recommended when you are in the vicinity of a mountain lion.

The state of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks department has this advice to reduce dangers from mountain lions. They say not to approach a mountain lion, as they will likely prefer to exit your vicinity and you should give them a way to do so. Don't run from a mountain lion as it has an instinct to chase you. Stand still and stand tall. Don't crouch or bend over as then you will look like one of their usual meals. It's best to appear larger by raising your arms, waving them slowly, opening your jacket, and talking loudly and calmly.

More Cougar Lore

The Cougar on the Porch (Photos): Yes, it's a real cougar on a real porch, but it's in Wyoming, not in the various places in the eastern United States as it is labeled.

Sources and Further Reading

On the Prowl: Camera Trap Codger blog, February 27, 2008

Hoax Photo of Alleged North Dakota Elk Hunter and Cougar Making the Rounds Cougar News, October 20, 2010

Cougar Behind Elk Hunter Photo Making the Rounds Lewiston Tribune Outdoors blog, October 19, 2010