Mountain Lion facts (Puma concolor)


Mountain lion
Puma concolor

Cougars are a stalk and wait predators and the majority of prey is killed by a sudden explosive burst of speed with the attack focused from the front shoulder forward, where the cougar can grasp the neck to break the neck or suffocate and kill. A cougar may stalk an animal for an hour or more. Cougars don’t use dens like bears do. They may settle down for up to six weeks while the kittens are immobile, but afterward are almost always on the move, making daybeds as they go.

Sleek and graceful, cougars are solitary and secretive animals rarely seen in the wild. Also known as mountain lions or pumas, cougars are known for their strength, agility, and awesome ability to jump. Their exceptionally powerful legs enable them to leap 30 feet from a standstill, or to jump 15 feet straight up a cliff wall. Cougars use their paws and claws to trip prey (i.e. a swat to the rear legs) or grab it with their claws, then use their claws to hold their prey while delivering the kill-bite. A cougar’s strength and powerful jaws allow it to take down and drag prey larger than itself.

According to the IUCN this species is considered LEAST CONCERN (lowest threat level).
According to the IUCN this species is considered LEAST CONCERN (lowest threat level).

Cougars vary in color from reddish-brown to tawny (deer-like) to gray, with a black tip on their long tail.

males grow up to 7-8 feet (2.1-2.4m) long and stand about 30 inches (0.7m) at shoulder, females about 25 percent smaller

up 180 pounds (82 kg)

up to 12 years in wild, 25 years in captivity

Least concern

Cougars use steep canyons, rock outcroppings and boulders, or vegetation, such as dense brush and forests, to remain hidden while hunting. Adult male cougars roam widely, covering a home range of 50 to 150 square miles, depending on the age of the cougar, the time of year, type of terrain, and availability of prey.

Adult cougars typically prey on deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, and wild sheep, with deer being the preferred and most common prey. Other prey species, especially for younger cougars, include raccoons, coyotes, rabbits, hares, small rodents, and occasionally pets and livestock.

Cougars make their living by not being seen. In areas disturbed by humans, these cats are most active during twilight and early morning hours. (In dim light, cougars see up to six times better than humans.) However, cougars can be active at dawn or dusk if prey is active at that time. The most typical signs of presence will be tracks, prints, and scat. Sometimes tree marks will reveal where lions used the tree like a scratching post. The scratches will typically be 4-8 feet off the ground. Calls, moans, groans and growls can be heard during mating season when males compete for females, but for the rest of the year audible clues to their presence are uncommon. Unfortunately for humans, mountain lions work very hard to keep their presence unknown.


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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Dept.

National Park Service

International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Paul Tarwell, “Camping & Wilderness Survival Second Edition” (Lebanon, New Hampshire: Paul Tarwell, 2006).

Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

World Worldlife Federation