The cougar (Puma concolor), also commonly known as the mountain lion, puma, panther, or catamount, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae 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.
It is the second-heaviest cat in the New World, after the jaguar. Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although sightings during daylight hours do occur.
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 in North America have been increasing in recent years as more people enter their territory.
Prolific hunting following European colonization of the Americas and the ongoing human development of cougar habitat has caused populations to drop in most parts of its historical range. In particular, the cougar was extirpated in eastern North America in the beginning of the 20th century, except for an isolated Florida panther subpopulation.
However, in recent decades, breeding populations have moved east into the far western parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Transient males have been verified in Minnesota, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and Illinois, where a cougar was shot in the city limits of Chicago and, in at least one instance, observed as far east as coastal Connecticut. Reports of eastern cougars (P. c. cougar) still surface, although it was declared extirpated in 2011.
he cougar is an ambush predator and pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources are ungulates, particularly deer, but also livestock. It also hunts species as small as insects and rodents.
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) that pumas attack increases with the puma’s body weight; in general, MWVP is lower in areas closer to the equator. Its most important prey species are various deer species, particularly in North America; mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and even bull moose are taken. Other species such as the bighorn and Dall’s sheep, horse, fallow deer, caribou, mountain goat, coyote, pronghorn, and domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep are also primary food bases in many areas. 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.
A captive cougar feeding: Cougars are ambush predators, feeding mostly on deer and other mammals.
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.
Kills are generally estimated 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 around 15 months. The cat drags a kill to a preferred spot, covers it with brush, and returns to feed over a period of days. The cougar is generally reported to not be a scavenger, and rarely consumes prey it has not killed, but deer carcasses left exposed for study were scavenged by cougars in California, suggesting more opportunistic behavior.
WHERE DO THEY LIVE?