A Missoula mom said instincts, not fear, kicked in when she saw an aggressive mountain lion crouched yards away from her four-year-old.
Heather Gerhard gave an exclusive first-hand account to NBC Montana of the close call.
She said she and her three children, along with other relatives, were camping on Monday at Harper's Lake, in the Blackfoot Valley, when she saw the mountain lion.
"It was daylight, there was a fire going, and there were five kids playing, and this mountain lion came right into our camp,” said Gerhard.
She sprinted towards the cat, scooped up her child, and waved her arms in the air and yelled at the mountain lion.
"I tried to make guttural, loud noises to scare it off, which did not work,” said Gerhard. “It just stood there, flicking its very impressive and long tail, and staring me in the eyes."
Gerhard and three other adults were eventually able to scare the cat away, but it returned several times and continued to stalk the campground.
"Have you heard those stories about moms that can pull a car off a child? I felt like I could have ripped that thing's throat out protecting my child,” said Gerhard.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens responded within the hour. They brought dogs to try to locate the cat to kill it, but they weren’t able to track it down.
No one was injured, but the mom said her kids haven't been able to sleep since the close run in with the cat.
"We couldn't have come closer than we did to having something really bad happen."
Fish, Wildlife and Parks wardens say they haven't had any luck yet tracking down the mountain lion. They'll be patrolling the campsite through the weekend.