TRABUCO CANYON, Calif. (KABC) -- A wildlife photographer in Orange County had a dangerously close encounter with a mountain lion as he hiked a trail to retrieve a camera he uses to monitor mountain lions.
Mark Girardeau recorded a video of a mountain lion named Uno walking up to him and then past him on a trail in the Trabuco Canyon area.
"She was just sitting there enjoying the view. You can tell that I totally kind of invaded her space. She was just relaxing. She was sitting down. It was definitely scary, but I realized she was just trying to get by, because she was on the other side of the trail, so I just kind of tucked in to the bushes as far as I could," Girardeau said to Eyewitness News.
The encounter occurred on Wednesday, and Girardeau said it was the third time in five years that he has had a close encounter with Uno. He recognized the animal from the tag on its ear, collar and injured right-eye.
Girardeau said that when he ran into Uno in 2021, she charged at him and his friend. Now, Girardeau advises people to stay calm and don't run or turn your back to the animal. Instead, intimidate the mountain lion by making a lot of noise.
Girardeau can be heard yelling "Get back! Get back!" at the mountain lion just feet away from him and a woman walking the trail alongside him. The mountain lion stood and stared at the scientist, who has had cameras set up on the trail where the encounter occurred for a while now.
The gripping video shows Girardeau yelling "Get back!" for several minutes until the mountain lion retreats somewhat, then the two start slowly walking away without taking their eyes off the animal.
Girardeau continued to yell "We're still here!" and "Get back mountain lion!"
When he saw the mountain lion scratching its paws, Girardeau decided they should walk faster.
They continue to walk even as they realize the mountain lion is still following them from inside the brush.
The two are eventually able to escape unharmed.
Despite the dangerous encounters, Girardeau said he does not blame Uno.
"Really the mountain lions are just there living in their life in the wilderness. We're placing ourselves in their environment, so we have to respect them and understand that they are around. And we have to do our part to keep the population there while they're around," he said.
And, after so many encounters with Uno, Girardeau joked that they are now on a first-name basis.
"I like to think she was actually there for a video shoot. Like we're kind of hanging out more I guess now. Hopefully my girlfriend doesn't get jealous, but I've definitely spent some time out there with Uno, yea," he said.
You can check out more photos and videos of Uno on Girardeau's website at orangecountyoutdoors.com.