Conservation Status– Least concern
Cougars are the largest member of the small cat female. The females weigh 34 to 48kg (75 to 105 pounds). Males are much larger at 53 to 72kg (116 to 158 pounds). From the head to the base of the tail cougars measure 2.8 to 5 feet (86 to 155cm) long. The tail adds 2-3 (60-97cm) to this length.
The coat of the mountain lion is tawny. Around the muzzle the coat is white. The nose is a light pink in colour. Above the yellow eye is a black stripe and under is a white patch. Down the sides of the muzzle are some medium sized whiskers. On the underside of these animals the fur is lighter in colour.
On average a cougar in the wild would live for 8-10 years. In captivity they can easily double that and reach 20 years of age. One cougar called scratch set a new record by living till just before his 30th birthday.
The cougar is a carnivore. They feed mostly on a diet of rabbits, hares, deer, elk, coyotes, porcupines, racoons and large birds. They are opportunistic feeders though and will take any prey animals which they can find.
After a cougar has pounced on its prey they will kill it quickly with a bite to the neck. Once they are finished with the hunt they take the prey item to a bush eat what they want at that time and then bury this rest. This means instead of hunting a few days later they can go eat the rest of the carcass.
Ranging throughout the entirety of the Americas in the past the cougars now inhabit a small portion of their past range. Cougars were once found throughout all of North and South America apart from Canada. Now they are only found in the Eastern and middle united states but most of their home in South America remains apart from small pockets that they have been removed from.
Their adaptable nature has led to their success as a species. They live in all varieties of forest and many of the desert areas. Areas with dense underbrush are preferred though they have been known to live in canyons, escarpments and dense brush.
Female cougars are able to reproduce 8 days out of a 23 day cycle. During this time it is believed they will only mate with one male. They will mate many times with the male.
After 91 days the female finds a cave or alcove where she can give birth. In this cave she will deposit 1-6 blind cubs. These cubs are covered in spots that help them to blend in with their environment. The mother does all the caring for the cubs. She will fiercely defend them even managing to fight off black bears at times.
As they grow the cubs begin to head out to kills the mother has buried. Soon enough they will hunt small prey items while on these forays.
At 2 years of age the cubs are ready to go out on their own though a few animals, mainly males, will have already left by this point. These animals may travel large distances to establish their own territory. They are able to breed by the time they are 1 ½ to 3 years old. Females have a litter of cubs every 2-3 years.
The cougar is a solitary animal which only meets up with others for mating.
Cougars are secretive being rarely seen. They exhibit a crepuscular behaviour pattern meaning they are mostly active at dawn and dusk.
No natural predators of the cougar exist. There have been instances though of bears being able to steal prey off of cougars. They are also smaller in size throughout South America as they eat smaller prey so as not to compete with the jaguar.
The cougar is known by many names including mountain lion, puma, cougar and panther. These names all have different origins. The name mountain lion comes from the early Spanish explorers who called it ‘gato monte’ which translates to ‘cat of the mountain.’ The name ‘panther’ is a generalised term which refers to a cat with a solid coloured coat which they have. The name cougar comes from an old word that South American Indians had which was, cuguacuarana which got shortened to cuguar and was then spelled differently. Puma is the commonly accepted scientific term.
One subspecies of cougar the Florida panther now only numbers 50 in a heavily reduced range.
Top : By Bas Lammers (originally posted to Flickr as Puma) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Map : By Jürgen at nl.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons
Cub : By National Park Service (Internet) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Bottom : By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Annoyed Mountain Lion Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons