TRABUCO CANYON (CBSLA) - A wildlife photographer and his friend hiking in Trabuco Canyon before dark Friday came face to face with a mountain lion.
"If I said I wasn't scared, I'd be lying, but I had to kind of hype it up and make myself sound tougher," said photographer Mark Girardeau. "This mountain lion didn't blink. It was so weird and we were so close. You could just see its eyes staring at us.
Just feet away from where the mountain lion crouched, Girardeau raised his voice to scare it off. When the big cat didn't move, he told his friend standing next to him to get back.
"Chill, just chill. Get back! Back away slowly. Hold on. Don't go fast! Don't turn your back either," he can be heard saying on video he captured of the moment.
Girardeau's friend, Rachel Devlugt, said it took everything she had not to run.
"My initial response as a lion is, like, running up to me is, like, oh my God, I gotta go," she said.
The photographer told his friend to keep her eyes on the mountain lion because it would likely follow them.
"We're gonna stand here and have a face off with a lion," Devlugt said.
Luckily for everyone involved, the mountain lion move away and the pair slowly back up the trail to safety.
"It was so scary. I'm pretty sure that was the scariest thing I've ever experienced in my whole life," Devlugt said.
The two were checking trail cameras that Girardeau placed on trees in Trabuco Canyon to catch snapshots of mountain lions he's been tracking in the Orange County wilderness. He's posted videos of the big cats to his website OC Outdoors.
As it turns out, this was a female mountain lion named Uno, recognizable by her damaged eye.
Girardeau said he never dreamed he'd come face to face with her.
"It just happened so fast. You don't have any time to plan it. It just happens and you're forced into the situation and you have to react. You can't run away," he said.
Girardeau said he believed the mountain lion was more afraid of them than they were of her, and he hopes that anyone who sees the video will know what they should if they happen to encounter a mountain lion in the wild.
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