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Mountain Lion Notecard



Mountain Lion (Felis concolor)

Cougar, catamount, puma, panther, screamer; all are names given to this shy and elusive predator. Unable to roar, the puma is capable of an unimaginable, penetrating scream. Largest of the North American wild cats, a male can weigh over 200 pounds and measure 8′ from nose to tip of tail. They have keen eyesight and are amazingly fast; they can jump vertically up to 15′ and horizontally up to 40′!

Mountain lions are remarkably adaptable to a wide range of habitats from Canada to South America, including northern alpine forests, deserts and tropical forests. Once hunted to near extinction, populations are now making a comeback. Formerly distributed throughout North America, the mountain lion is now mostly found in remote areas of the western U.S. as well as western Canada and much of Mexico. A small population still exists in southern Florida where the species is considered endangered. There have even been reported cougar sightings in the eastern U.S. where they were thought to be extinct. Habitat destruction and development are currently the main threats to mountain lion populations; these factors have also served to block wildlife corridors especially important for cougar immigration.

Except during the breeding season, this cougar is a solitary animal staking out a home range that for males may cover more than 100 square miles. The male’s range generally encompasses the smaller ranges of several resident females. Females commonly have 2-3 kittens; after weaning at 2 months of age, the youngsters learn the ways of the cougar by accompanying their mother until they are 18-24 months old at which time they leave to establish their own range.

Mountain lions are most active from dusk to dawn, roaming their home area through the night in search of prey. Deer are their prey of choice but they also hunt wild hogs, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, bighorn sheep, elk, rodents and birds. The secretive cougar prefers to ambush its prey, often from behind. When free-roaming domestic cattle are allowed to range they rank high on the list of prey animals for the puma; the killing of livestock is one of the principle reasons for human aggression against these large cats.

Can we learn the lesson that this beautiful and unique predator has for us; balance?

artwork by Linda Matusich © 2004

text by Steve Sierigk