Scientific Name: Puma concolor
The mountain lion is known by different names—cougar, puma, catamount, panther, and painter among many. The mountain lion is the largest of the small cats.
Adult mountain lions:
• Range from 80 to 130 pounds or more, with female lions being slightly smaller and lighter weight.
• Length from nose to tail is from 7 to 8 feet including the tail, which makes up 1/3rd of the body length.
• Puma concolor means “cat of one color”. Their coats are typically a tawny uniform color but range from silvery-grey to reddish with whitish patches.
• Life expectancy in the wild is from 8 to 13 years.
• Have large paws and, proportionally, the largest hind legs of any cat,
• Can leap vertically up to 18 feet (considered an exceptional jump) and horizontally from 20 to 40 feet.
• Can sprint at 35 miles per hour and are excellent climbers, which helps them evade competitors such as wolves.
Mountain lions live solitary lives. Males and females interact for breeding when females are about 2 ½ years old. Females have average litter sizes of 2 to 3 kittens and do all of the parenting including training the kittens to hunt. Kittens stay with their mothers from 18 to 24 months.
Did you know? Mountain lions are the largest wild cat that purrs. They also vocalize with chirps, hisses, and screams.
What do They Eat?
Mountain lions are obligate carnivores and feed only on meat. They are successful generalist predators and will eat any animal they can catch, from small rodents to large ungulates, even insects. In North America its most important prey species are mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep. A survey of North American research found that ungulates (particularly deer) made up 68% of the cougar’s diet. A separate survey done in Canada concluded that ungulates made up 99% of a cougar’s winter diet. They hunt by stalking, getting within a few yards of their prey before lunging to make the kill with a powerful bite to the neck.
Aside from humans, no species preys on mature mountain lions. They are not, however, usually the apex (highest ranking) species throughout most of their range. Grizzlies and wolves can potentially drive a mountain lion off of its kill. A study done in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks found that brown or black bears visited 24% of cougar kills.
Conservation threats to the species include persecution as a pest animal, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat, and depletion of its prey base. Sufficient range and habitat corridors are critical to sustaining viable cougar populations.