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Cougars: the Apex Feline of North America

In our blog article “Roaring Shadows: Reflecting on the Extinct Big Cats of North America” we shared how North America was once home to very large cat family members, including the North American Lion, Cheetah, and Sabertooth cats. Currently, the largest cats in North America are cougars and jaguars. Jaguars only inhabit the southernmost regions of North America along the border of Mexico. Everything else to the north is the domain where cougars reign as the apex cat species.

The scientific name for cougar is Puma concolor;  however, they hold a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the animal with the most common names (40 in total), including puma, panther, mountain lion, and catamount. Cougars are solitary cats with a total habitat range from the Yukon in the north to the Andes in South America. They inhabit various ecosystems, including forests, mountains, swamps, and even deserts. Adult males can weigh between 115 and 200 pounds, while females are slightly smaller, weighing between 64 and 141 pounds. 

Cougars are ambush predators using camouflage and stalking techniques to get extremely close to their prey before pouncing. They have a bite force of approximately 750 pounds per square inch, which is double that of a pit bull. While they inhabit diverse ecosystems, their bodies are designed to be successful hunters in each one of them. Their long, thick tail is designed to help balance their muscular, agile bodies, which can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour and reach an eighteen-foot vertical and forty-foot horizontal jump.

Sasha cougar was rescued from a private owner in New York City, and now loves to sprint and climb in here habitat at TCWR.

At the Refuge, we design our cougar habitats to accommodate these abilities with high platforms to jump on, long distances to sprint, and, most importantly, a welded roof. Cougars are native to the Ozark Mountains and have been seen in our area. During mating season, females make a loud, obnoxious screaming sound to attract mates, so regardless of whether or not the female cougars we rescue live with a male, we spay them. 

Human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss are the biggest threats to cougars, which is why our education initiatives at the Refuge are so important. By educating the public, we hope to inspire compassion and understanding to protect North America’s most prominent apex cat. To learn more, visit

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