When Nickolas Melville set off for a run in the Rancho San Antonio Preserve in northern California he wasn't expecting to stumble upon an intense showdown between a mountain lion and a black-tailed deer. 

The cat had pinned down its prey just a short way off the trail, from where Melville, along with three hikers who were also in the area, was able to watch the battle unfold – and film it. For about 15 minutes, the fully grown buck struggled to free itself from the mountain lion's grip, trashing and swinging its antlers.

"I thought maybe deer might escape but kitty was persistent," Melville recalls.

While hikers and joggers are used to seeing plenty of deer in the park, spotting a mountain lion, much less one on the hunt, is rare – though signs dotted along the trails warn that the cats are about.

"After ten minutes, the buck was exhausted with the mountain lion hanging on the muzzle for so long. Eventually, the deer collapsed ... [which is] when finally the mountain lion goes for the throat," Melville writes.

Senior park ranger Chris Barresi told CBS Local that while visitors should always be alert, there's no reason to be overly alarmed. “As far as danger on the trail, be more worried about ticks and snakes than mountain lions.”

And while the urge to get camera-happy when confronted with such an amazing wildlife spectacle might be strong, Barresi advises against it.

“Although you may be very tempted to pull out your camera and start rolling video... we would not recommend standing there watching the cat.”


Top header image: Angell Williams, Flickr