Puma concolor – Cat of one color

Puma concolor is listed in dictionaries under more names than any other animal in the world. There are at least 18 South American native terms, 25 native North American, and 40 English names for mountain lions. The species most common names are:

Mountain lion, cougar, panther, puma, painter, concolor, cat of one color, cat of many names, tyger, ghost walker, klandagi, cuguacuarana, leopardo, catamount, koe-ishto, ko-icto, and el leon.

The mountain lion is tan in color, with black tipped ears and tail. Adults weigh 80 to 180 pounds and stand two to three feet high at the shoulders. The length of an adult lion is 6 to 8 feet from the nose to the tip of the tail. The tail measures one-third of the lions length. Mountain lion kittens have camouflaging spots and rings around their tails.

Mountain lions are calm, quiet and elusive. They prefer areas with dense undergrowth and cover, and will leave an area where they perceive a threat. Mountain lions live solitary lives, spacing themselves across their habitat by marking and defending areas known as home ranges. Home ranges contain resources cougars need to survive: hunting areas, water sources, safe resting places, lookouts, and for females, safe places to raise young. Although lions are solitary unless mating or accompanied by their young, their territories will often overlap those of the opposite sex, and only occasionally overlap with those of the same sex. A males home range is generally larger than a females. The home territories of mountain lions can cover hundreds of square miles, depending on the availability of prey, time of year, and changes in the local vegetation.

An opportunistic hunter, mountain lions eat prey that is familiar and easily available. They hunt alone from dusk to dawn, taking their prey primarily from behind. Mountain lions primary prey is deer, but they also feed on wild hogs, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, and birds. A mountain lion may kill a deer every one to four weeks. They often drag their kill to another area and then cover it with dry leaves, grass or pine needles known as caching to protect it from other animals and to reduce spoilage. A lion often returns to the kill several times to feed, for a period of three days to one week.

As one of North Americas largest predators, mountain lions play an essential role in maintaining the health of deer populations. Cougars often prey on the sick, weak, young, and old deer, which helps to control disease and keeps the deer herds strong. Also, they keep deer populations from growing too large or staying in an area for too long and over-browsing their habitat. Over-browsing can threaten native plants and also destroy important habitat for song birds and other animals.

Americas lion has roamed throughout the Americas for at least 50,000 years. From deserts to humid coast forests, lions live from sea level to snow-covered mountains. They once ranged from coast to coast and from South America into Northern Canada. Today, because of habitat loss and efforts to exterminate mountain lions in North America, sustainable populations exist in only 12 Western U.S. states, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. A small population exists in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and an endangered population in the tip of Florida (the Florida panther). Mountain lions prefer areas with dense undergrowth and cover, and will leave an area where they perceive a threat. Research has shown that mountain lions often change their movement patterns to avoid human occupied areas, or areas where humans are most active.

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