Genus: Puma (Total members of this genus: Mountain Lion and Jaguarundi)
Species: Puma concolor
Argentine puma (Puma concolor cabrerae): Argentina
Costa Rican cougar (Puma concolor costaricensis): Costa Rica
North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar): The United States and Canada
South American cougar (Puma concolor concolor): Northern parts of South America
Southern South American puma (Puma concolor puma) Southern parts of South America
Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) The rare and elusive Florida Panther who lives in the Everglades and swamps of Florida
The Mountain Lion has many other additional names including cougar, puma, panther, and catamount. The Mountain Lion’s range is the greatest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western hemisphere. It spans 110 degrees of latitude, from the northern Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes In South America. It is one of only three cat species, along with the Bobcat and Canada Lynx that is native to Canada.
The Mountain Lion prefers habitat with lots of underbrush and tree cover as well as steep canyons and rocky escarpments for stalking purposes but it will also live in wide open spaces too. It adapts to virtually every habitat: it is found in tropical rainforests, temperate rainforests (which are the coniferous kinds found for example, in the Pacific Northwest), temperate deciduous forests (these are forests where the leaves change color), and in boreal forests (also known as taiga forests; they’re the coldest forests up in the northern countries and are mostly coniferous.) The Mountain Lion also thrives in lowland and mountainous deserts.
The Mountain Lion is the fourth heaviest cat, after the Tiger, Lion, and Jaguar. Mountain Lions can be almost as large as jaguars, but are less muscular and not as powerfully built; where their ranges overlap, the Mountain Lion tends to be smaller than average.
Mountain Lion adults stand about 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in) tall at the shoulders. Adult males are around 2.4 m (7.9 ft) long nose-to-tail and females range from 1.5 to 2.75 m (4.9 to 9.0 ft) nose to tail. Males typically weigh 53 to 100 kg (115 to 220 lb), averaging 62 kg (137 lb). Females typically weigh between 29 and 64 kg (64 and 141 lb), averaging 42 kg (93 lb).
Mountain Lion size is smallest close to the equator, and larger towards the poles. The largest recorded Mountain Lion, sadly shot in Arizona, weighed 125.5 kg (276 lb) after its intestines were removed, indicating in life it could have weighed nearly 136.2 kg (300 lb).
Mountain Lion are gorgeous. They generally all have the same beautiful pale tawny yellow fur and tan yellow eyes. Some have crystalline blue eyes. There are people who claim to have seen cougars in a melanistic phase (all black colored) but it has never been officially documented (note: when a jaguar or leopard is all black or melanistic it is known as a black panther).
Mountain Lions have large paws and proportionally the largest hind legs in the cat family. These legs allow it to make great leaps and short-sprints. The Mountain Lion is able to leap as high as 5.5 m (18 ft) in one bound, and as far as 40 to 45 ft (12 to 13.5 m) horizontally.
The Mountain Lion’s top running speed ranges between 64 and 80 km/h (40 and 50 mph), but is best adapted for short, powerful sprints rather than long chases. It is adept at climbing, which allows it to evade canine competitors. Although it is not strongly associated with water, it can swim. The Mountain Lion is very secretive and solitary by nature, and is nocturnal and crepuscular (this means a twilight and early dawn dweller) but daylight sightings do occur.
Interestingly, the Mountain Lion is more closely related to smaller felines including the domestic cat rather than the big cats of Panthera (the four big cats who can roar.) Its closest relative is the Jaguarundi. The Mountain Lion cannot roar as it lacks the specially evolved larynx and hyoid bones required to do so. But it can purr and it can also make little chirps and whistles, imitating bird calls which lures the birdies closer to them.
Mountain Lions, by eating herbivores with seeds in their stomachs and then leaving scat across a large range, are able to plant around 94,000 plants a year.
Only females are involved in parenting. Female Mountain Lions are fiercely protective of their cubs, and have been known to successfully fight off animals as large as American Black Bears in their defense. Litter size is between one and six cubs, typically two. Caves and other alcoves that offer protection are used as litter dens.
Born blind, cubs are completely dependent on their mother at first, and begin to be weaned at around three months of age. As they grow, they begin to go out on forays with their mother, first visiting kill sites, and after six months beginning to hunt small prey on their own. Kitten survival rates are just over one per litter. When Mountain Lions are born, they have spots, but they lose them as they grow, and by the age of 2 1/2 years, the spots are completely gone.
Life expectancy of Mountain Lions in the wild is reported at 8-13 years; but a female of at least 18 years was reported to have been killed by some idiots on Vancouver Island. Mountain Lions may live as long as 20 years in captivity. One male North American Mountain Lion named Scratch was two months short of his 30th birthday when he died in 2007.
The cougar is a stalk and ambush predator, meaning instead of chasing its prey (which it occasionally does), it prefers to wait in the shadows from above, stalking through brush and trees, across ledges, or other covered spots, before leaping onto the back of its prey and a delivering a suffocating neck bite.
The Mountain Lion eats deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, domestic cattle, horses, sheep, and also bugs, small rodents, and reptiles. Like all cats, it is an obligate carnivore, meaning it needs to feed exclusively on meat to survive. It isn’t always the apex predator of its range (the apex predator is the top predator at the very pinnacle of the ecosystem’s food chain.) The Mountain Lion will yield to the jaguar, the Gray wolf, the American Black Bear, and the Grizzly. It is generally very shy and the sighting of a Mountain Lion is a rare and great thing. There are people who have lived in Mountain Lion country their whole lives and never caught a glimpse.
It is a myth that Mountain Lions pose a serious threat to livestock. A new 2013 study came out showing that unless a particular Mountain Lion is a major problem, it is better to just leave them alone because hunting them removes older Mountain Lions who have learned to avoid people in their established territories. This allows inexperienced younger males who are most likely to approach human developments to enter the former territories of the older animals.
The results of the study:
-100% removal of adult Mountain Lions resulted in a 150% – 340% increase in livestock and human conflicts!
-So, it is much better to leave the older adult experienced Mountain Lions alone- virtually no livestock loss occurs this way. (source)
Mountain Lions Are Vital For A Healthy Eco System
Mountain Lions serve a major role in keeping the ecosystem healthy. They weed out the sick and genetically weak animals, keeping the populations in balance and healthy- which is turn keeps the vegetation and landscape healthy. Mountain Lions are necessary for a healthy ecosystem. If you’re ever lucky enough to spot one from somewhere safe like a vehicle, just be real quiet and feel the power.
Wildlife corridors and sufficient range areas are critical to the sustainability of Mountain Lion populations. Research simulations have shown that the animal faces a low extinction risk in areas of 2200 km2 (850 sq mi) or more. As few as one to four new animals entering a population per decade markedly increases the chance for a healthy population to grow, which again shows how important it is to preserve and create new wildlife corridors.
A wildlife corridor, also called a habitat or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations that have become separated by human activities or structures, such as roads, development, or logging. It is a bridge of land that animals can walk through in order to travel to different locations for water, food, and to breed. This allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which majorly helps prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and the reduction of genetic diversity.
Edit: Great News!
Mountain Lion Attacks Are Incredibly Rare, But Here’s What To Do If You Encounter One On Foot In The Wild
Attacks on humans are very rare, as Mountain Lion prey recognition is a learned behavior and they do not generally recognize humans as prey unless they have become habituated to humans or are in a state of extreme starvation. Attacks are most frequent during late spring and summer, when juvenile Mountain lions leave their mothers and search for new territory. Fatal Mountain lion attacks are extremely rare and occur much less frequently than fatal dog attacks, fatal snake bites, fatal lightning strikes, or fatal bee stings. Around 20 people in North America were killed by Mountain lions between 1890 and 2011, including six in California. More than two-thirds of the Canadian fatalities occurred on Vancouver Island in British Columbia where Mountain lion populations are high.
As with many predators, a Mountain lion may attack if cornered or if a fleeing human stimulates their instinct to chase. A person “playing dead” or simply standing still however may cause the Mountain lion to consider a person easy prey. Here’s what to do if you see a Mountain Lion in the wild:
1.Make yourself appear as large as possible. Make yourself appear larger by picking up your children, leashing pets in, and if possible standing close to other adults. Open your jacket. Raise your arms. Wave your raised arms slowly.
2.Make noise. Yell, shout, bang your walking stick against a tree. Make any loud sound that cannot be confused by the Mountain Lion as the sound of prey. Speak slowly, firmly and loudly to disrupt and discourage predatory behavior.
3. Act like a predator yourself. Maintain eye contact. Never run past or from a Mountain Lion. Never bend over or crouch down. Aggressively wave your raised arms, throw stones or branches, all without turning away.
4. Slowly create distance. Assess the situation. Consider whether you may be between the Mountain Lion and its kittens, or between the Mountain Lion and its prey or cache. Back slowly to a spot that gives the Mountain Lion a path to get away, never turning away from the animal. Give a Mountain Lion the time and ability to move away.
5. Protect yourself. If attacked, fight back. Protect your neck and throat. People have utilized rocks, jackets, garden tools, tree branches, walking sticks, fanny packs and even bare hands to turn away Mountain lions.
Preceding attacks on humans, Mountain lions will display aberrant behavior, such as activity during daylight hours, a lack of fear of humans, and stalking humans. There have sometimes been incidents of “pet” Mountain lions mauling people, which brings me to my next point:
Wild Animals Should Not Be Kept As Pets
Having a Mountain Lion or any wild cat as a pet must be banned- these are wild animals not domesticated pets. It is wrong to keep a wild animal in captivity as a pet, it’s cruel to the animal and dangerous for the human. Those people often do end up getting mauled. I don’t think wild cats should be kept in captivity period, unless they are required for preserving the species or are a special rescue case who cannot be turned to the wild. And even then, they should only be in a fenced off area that is so large it simulates actually living in the wild. Seeing large cats pacing inside small zoo cages is a very upsetting sight.
Information On Mountain Lion Population Numbers, Hunting Laws, And Conservation Efforts:
The Mountain Lion population is maintaining though their numbers are on the decline as humans encroach further onto their habitats. They were hunted to very low levels in much of the 1800s and 20th century when people were colonizing the Americas. Mountain Lions living on the east coast were declared extinct in 2011 but occasionally there are reports of sightings; some may be traveling great distances from the west, most likely young males trying to establish their own territory. There is a recognized small subpopulation of Mountain Lions in the Florida back wood swamps called the Florida Panther. The Florida Panther is Critically Endangered, although as of 2015 the Florida Panther is missing from the IUCN Red List.
It should be illegal everywhere to hunt Mountain Lion. Hunting of Mountain Lions is prohibited in northern Argentina and all of Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, Venezuela and Uruguay. Mountain Lions are still bounty hunted in southern Argentina. Policing poaching in rural areas remains problematic, and illegal killing of Mountain Lions is common and widespread.
Regulated Mountain Lion hunting is still common in the United States and Canada, although they are protected from all hunting in the Yukon; it is permitted in every U.S. state from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, with the exception of California. Texas is the only state in the United States with a viable population of Mountain Lions that does not protect that population in some way. In Texas, Mountain Lions are listed as nuisance wildlife and any person holding a hunting or a trapping permit can kill a Mountain Lion regardless of the season, number killed, sex or age of the animal.
Mountain Lions are generally hunted with packs of dogs, until the animal is ‘treed’. When the hunter arrives on the scene, he shoots the cat from the tree at close range. This is wrong. Trapping is also cruel and results in mutilation and long, painful deaths. Killed animals are not required to be reported to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. This is wrong and must be changed. Conservation work of Mountain Lions in Texas is conducted by a non-profit organization called Balanced Ecology Inc (BEI), as part of their Texas Mountain Lion Conservation Project.
The Mountain Lion cannot be legally killed without a permit in California except under very specific circumstances, such as when a Mountain Lion is in act of pursuing livestock or domestic animals, or is declared a threat to public safety. Permits may be issued when owners can prove property damage on their livestock or pets. Again, studies have proven that unless a particular Mountain Lion is a major problem, it is better to just leave them alone because hunting them removes older Mountain Lions who have learned to avoid people in their established territories.
Conservation threats to the species include persecution as a pest animal (Mountain Lions will take farmers livestock though this is not an ultra frequent occurrence), environmental degradation and habitat fragmentation, and depletion of their prey base. Again, wildlife corridors are key to keeping the Mountain Lion population healthy.