What are Cougars
The cougar belongs to the species puma (Puma concolor), a type of large cat found in North and South
America. Regional names of cougar include mountain lion, panther, catamount, and painted cat, and more
Where are they found?
Before the rise of human populations in the Americas the mountain lion ranged from northern British
Canada to southern Andes on Chilean and Argentinian sides. Even now, it has the largest range
of any New World land animal, spanning 110 degrees of latitude.
Are they in the United States?
The cougar has made a dramatic comeback, with an estimated 30,000 in the western United
States, after being hunted almost to extinction. Cougars are gradually extending their range
to the east, following creeks and riverbeds, and have reached Missouri and Michigan. Recent
sightings have come from New York State. It is anticipated that they will soon expand their
range over the entire eastern and southern USA. At urban-wildland interfaces cougars often
come into contact with people, especially in areas with a large population of deer, the
cougar's natural prey. Cougars and mountain lions have begun preying on pets, such as dogs and
cats, but rarely turn to people as a source of food.
An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 cougars, or mountain lions, live in California. Colarado is thought to have
4,500 to 5,000 cougars.
What are cougars like?
Cougars are tawny-colored with black-tipped ears and a long tail. They can run at 30 mph, jump 20 feet
from a standing position, vertically leap 8 feet, and often weigh more than 150 pounds. Their bite
strength is more powerful than that of any domestic dog. Cougars have four toes with retractable claws.
Adult males may be more than 8 feet long, and weigh about 150 pounds. Adult females can be 7 feet long
and weigh about 75 pounds. Cougar kittens have brownish-blackish spots and rings on their tails. Cougars
live about a decade in the wild and 25 years or more in captivity.
The cougars that live closest to the Equator are the smallest. Size increases in populations living
closer to the poles.
How do they behave?
Cougars normally hunt large mammals, such as deer and elk, but will eat small animals. They
hunt alone and ambush their prey, often from behind with a killing bite at the base of the
skull that breaks the neck of their target. Mountain lions and cougars usually bury the
carcass of the kill, or partially cover it, while it continues to roam. It comes back to the
kill for nourishment over the next several days. Adult males tend to claim a 100 square miles
stretch for their territory and adult females take 20 to 60 square miles. However, their
ranges can vary anywhere from as many as 370 square miles to as few as 10 square miles.