Mountain Lion

Before the arrival of European settlers in North America, the Mountain Lion was more widely distributed than any other wild mammal on the continent. These native American lions were at home from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from southern Canada southward all the way through Central and South America to Patagonia.

The mountain lion has since been eliminated from large blocks of this original range. In the United States, they are limited mostly to western states, with a small population still surviving in the Northeast and in the south.

Among the native cats, the mountain lion is second in size in the Western Hemisphere only to the jaguar. The adult lion, which is also known as cougar, panther or deer tiger, measures about 7 feet long from the tip of its tail to its nose.

The mountain lion is covered with short smooth hair that is tawny yellow, golden brown or slate gray with whitish underparts. The fur is not spotted in mature animals, but the kittens carry large patches of dark hair and also have rings around their tails. The ears are small and erect.

The mountain lion hunts at night, often by traveling the ridges. The most important element in its diet is deer meat, but it will also consume smaller prey including racoons, rabbits, birds, frogs and fish. It even eats pocupines after flipping them onto their backs so it can kill them but escape the danger of the quills.

Breeding and Raising Young

They do not form permanent pair bonds but spend their lives roaming as individuals. The adult female breeds every 2 oe 3 years. Ninety-six days after the mating, the female mountain lion gives birth to her litter of kittens, and average of 3, and they may be born in any season. The mother cougar hides her kittens among boulders or in a pile of downfallen timber in a remote canyon. When the young ones are 2 to 3 months old, they begin to travel with their mother on her hunting trips. They live for an average of 12-13 years.

The young stay with the mother for 2 years and when she casts them out, they may locate and occupy their own hunting territories. The search, often long and difficult, may end up a hundred miles or more from where it began. Once mountain lions have established territories, they mark the boundaries with scratch piles of litter which they scent with urine. The territory of a single lion in the Rocky Mountains may cover as much as 75 square miles.

Mountain Lion

Conservation Status

Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi) and Eastern cougar (Felis concolor cougar) are listed as Endangered by the IUCN. These two subspecies are on CITES: Appendix I. All other subspecies are on Appendix II.

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