© 1990 Paul Berquist
The mountain lion (Puma concolor) is one of the only members of the cat family where the fur coat of the adult has no stripes or spots. Instead their fur is tawny red-brown to gray-brown above and a paler whitish color below. They have a long dark-tipped tail, small head and black fur at the base of their whiskers. A young mountain lion has a spotted fur coat until they are 6-9 months old.
Mountain lions are primarily solitary (unless it is a mother and her kittens) and do most of their hunting during the night. They hunt their prey by stalking and pouncing in ambush attacks. They will hide large carcasses under leaf litter and other debris and return to feed on them for several days.
Mountain lions are able live in a variety of habitats ranging from semi-arid canyons, mountain forests, Sonoran Desert uplands, riparian canyons, and rugged heavily vegetated areas. They tend to avoid areas where human presence is common.
A single male mountain lion may require a minimum area of 10 to 250 square miles. The size of the home range depends on the type of terrain, amount of cover, and amount of prey available. Various state game and fish departments in 15 states in the United States officially recognize populations. They also range throughout Mexico, and Central and South America although the status of their populations in these regions is not entirely known.
Under the Endangered Species Act, three subspecies of the mountain lion are listed as endangered: the Florida panther, Costa Rican puma and the Eastern puma. Remaining populations are listed species of least concern, although it is illegal for international trade of animals or their parts.
Mountain lions eat a variety of food ranging from deer, birds, big horn sheep, rabbits, elk, porcupines, and other small mammals.
The few natural enemies of the mountain lion include large predators such as bears, wolves, and other lions. Coyotes and eagles will prey upon kittens. Mountain lions also fall victim to accidents, disease, road-hazards, and people.
Because mountain lions are nomadic they do not usually stay in one space long enough to make a “home” unless it is a female ready to give birth. Pregnant females do not usually do much in the way of den preparation. All that is required is a space that provides a refuge from predators and shields the kittens from the heavy rain and hot sun. Dens rarely contain any bedding for the young, though a mother’s soft belly hair has been found in some.
Their life span is estimated to be 12 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity.
Male are larger than females weighing anywhere between 125-165 lbs. Females are usually between 85-100 lbs. Their tail is quite long; up to 3 feet while their body length is between 3.5-6.0 feet.
Mountain lions are known by many different names: painter, cougar, catamount, panther and puma are a few examples.
They are excellent leapers, reaching approximately 23 feet in one jump.