- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Felidae
- Subfamily: Felinae
- Genus: Puma
- Species: concolor
Scientific Name: Puma concolor
Other Common names: Cougar, Panther, Puma, Catamount, Mountain Screamer, Mexican Lion, Painter, Red Tiger, American Lion (~ 40 in the English language)
- North America: Puma concolor cougar
- Central America: Puma concolor costaricensis
- Eastern South America: Puma concolor capricornesis
- Northern South America: Puma concolor concolor
- Central South America: Puma concolor carerae
- Southern South America: Puma concolor puma
IUCN Red List Status and Population
Population Trend: Decreasing (Nielsen et al. 2015)
Population: Most widely distributed mammals in the Western Hemisphere. According to International Union of Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (Culver et al. 2000):
The conservation group, Defenders of Wildlife, states that there are 30,000 mountain lions estimated to live throughout the Western U.S., although the Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi) is critically endangered with only ~ 100 -180 individuals (“Basic Facts About Mountain Lions” 2017).
Weight: 60-200 pounds
Length: 3.25 to 5.25 feet tall
Reproduction: Mating season is usually from December to March, but is not restricted by time of year. Females will give birth to 2-4 cubs and raise them alone. They nurse for 2 months and then start traveling with their mothers, learning how to hunt.
Natural Behaviors: Mountain lions are solitary animals and require a lot of room to survive. Only a few cats can survive within a 30 square mile range of each other. These animals are extremely elusive cats that can survive in nearly any type of ecosystem and are not easily seen by humans. They are solitary cats, hunting alone and ambushing their prey. They are the largest wild cat in Western North America. They are extremely powerful and can jump 20 feet in the air from standing and leap 40 feet. The color of their coat is dependent on the region in which they live – ranging from light to dark beige.
As an apex predator, their main food source is deer (60-80%) and small mammals such as porcupine, coyotes, and raccoons. Mountain lions are known to bury their prey and feed off it for several days. On average, there are only 4 attacks and 1 human fatality caused by mountain lions per year.
Habitat Types: Extreme variety – from urban areas to deserts, snowy mountains, to forests
Historic Home Ranges: See Below (orange) mountain lions have been extirpated from their former range in the Midwest and Eastern North America but there have been attempts to recolonize the region.
Current Home Ranges: Canada through the Western U.S., Central America, South America, the southern tip of Chile.
Mountain lions are the widest distributed mammal, ranging from North to South America.
IUCN Red List 2015: Major threats include habitat fragmentation and habitat loss, as well as poaching of their natural prey base. Mountain lions are heavily prosecuted across their range with retaliatory hunting due to preying on domesticated livestock, as well as due to fear of human life. Mountain lions have been reported to kill humans in western Canada and the United States. Florida panther mortality is greatly linked to road kills, as well as being barriers of movement and dispersal amongst the small lasting population. (Nielsen et al. 2015).
Mountain lions once roamed nearly all of the United States. Farmers and ranchers disliked the wild cats due to loss of livestock. They were almost eliminated in the 20th century in the Midwest and Eastern U.S., with a small population currently remaining in Florida and is endangered. With deer populations rebounding in much of this area, biologists believe that mountain lions may repopulate if humans allow them to. In western U.S. populations are stable, and allow for a sustainable sport hunting season.
The Mountain Lion Foundation has provided safety educational material if you are to ever encounter a mountain lion in the wild. Following these safety procedures are crucial to ensure the safety of both humans and mountain lions. Always keep an eye out for mountain lion signs such as prey caches, fur, tracks, scat, scratched trees, and avoid following these signs.
Mountain Lion Safety
Mountain Lion Safety: http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectencounters.asp (”Encounters: what to do when you meet a mountain lion”).
- Keep your distance and take this rare encounter very seriously. DO NOT approach the cat.
- Seem as large as possible, pick up small children, leash pets, and stand close to those around you. Open your jacket and raise your arms, and wave them.
- Make loud noises that do not sound like a prey animal, such as banging your water bottle or walking stick. Speak slowly and loudly to disrupt the mountain lion’s hunting instincts.
- Do not act afraid, act defiant by maintaining eye contact, and DO NOT run away. DO NOT bend over or crouch down. Throw stones or branches and aggressively wave your arms.
- Slowly create distance and assess which direction to take. Without turning your back to the mountain lion, do not move towards cubs or prey. Give the lion the time and space to get away from you.
- Protect yourself if the mountain lion attacks you. Protect your neck and throat by using rocks, jackets, garden tools, tree branches, and do not give up.
- “Basic Facts About Mountain Lions” Defenders of Wildlife 2017. https://defenders.org/mountain-lion/basic-facts
- Encounters: what to do when you meet a mountain lion”. Mountain Lion Foundation. http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectencounters.asp
- “Cougar”. National Geographic. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/c/cougar/
- “Cougar (Mountain Lion)”. American Museum of Natural History. https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/permanent-exhibitions/mammal-halls/bernard-family-hall-of-north-american-mammals/cougar-mountain-lion
- Nielsen, C., Thompson, D., Kelly, M. & Lopez-Gonzalez, C.A. 2015. Puma concolor. (errata version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T18868A97216466. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-4.RLTS.T18868A50663436.en