Mountain Lion

Puma concolor

Summary 3

The cougar (Puma concolor), also known as the mountain lion, puma, panther, mountain cat, or catamount, is a large cat of the family Felidae native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America, is the greatest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in most American habitat types.

An excellent stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates such as deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses and sheep, particularly in the northern part of its range. It will also hunt species as small as insects and rodents. This cat prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but can also live in open areas. The cougar is territorial and survives at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While large, it is not always the apex predator in its range, yielding to the jaguar, gray wolf, American black bear, and grizzly bear. It is reclusive and mostly avoids people. Fatal attacks on humans are rare, but have been trending upward in recent years as more people enter their territory.[12]

A successful generalist predator, the cougar will eat any animal it can catch, from insects to large ungulates (over 500 kg). Like all cats, it is an obligate carnivore, meaning it needs to feed exclusively on meat to survive. The mean weight of vertebrate prey (MWVP) was positively correlated (r=0.875) with puma body weight and inversely correlated (r=–0.836) with food niche breadth all across the Americas. In general, MWVP was lower in areas closer to the Equator.[4] Its most important prey species are various deer species, particularly in North America; mule deer, white-tailed deer, and even bull elk are taken. Other species such as bighorn sheep, wild horses of Arizona, domestic horses, and domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep are also primary food bases in many areas.[60] A survey of North America research found 68% of prey items were ungulates, especially deer. Only the Florida Panther showed variation, often preferring feral hogs and armadillos.[4]

Though capable of sprinting, the cougar is typically an ambush predator. It stalks through brush and trees, across ledges, or other covered spots, before delivering a powerful leap onto the back of its prey and a suffocating neck bite. The cougar is capable of breaking the neck of some of its smaller prey with a strong bite and momentum bearing the animal to the ground.[47]

Kills are generally estimated at around one large ungulate every two weeks. The period shrinks for females raising young, and may be as short as one kill every three days when cubs are nearly mature at around 15 months.[43] The cat drags a kill to a preferred spot, covers it with brush, and returns to feed over a period of days. It is generally reported that the cougar is not a scavenger, and will rarely consume prey it has not killed; but deer carcasses left exposed for study were scavenged by cougars in California, suggesting more opportunistic behavior.[64]

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Valerie, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND), http://www.flickr.com/photos/18922711@N00/1453118029
  2. (c) Jim & Jamie Dutcher, all rights reserved, uploaded by nataliemarisa, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/mountain-lion/
  3. Adapted by nataliemarisa from a work by (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puma_concolor

More Info

iNat Map

Endangered status least concern
Taxa mammal