The Americas are home to one of the most reclusive animals in the world.
In this post, you’ll discover a large number of facts about mountain lions, one of the biggest cats in the world!
1. What are mountain lions?
Mountain lions are a large type of cat in the subfamily of the Felinae. This means they pretty much have a lot in common with domestic cats. The difference is that they are one of the largest wild cats in North America.
2. What are mountain lions called?
These big cats of which the scientific name is “Puma concolor,” have different names in various regions. They are referred to as cougars, pumas, red lions or catamounts. In this post, we will refer to them by all names. This is just a reminder that it’s the same animal we are talking about here.
3. How big are mountain lions?
Pumas are the fourth largest cat species in the world. They stand about 60 to 90 centimeters (24 to 35 in) tall if measured from the shoulders. Male pumas can become 2.4 meters (7.9 ft) long and females are on average 2.05 meters (6.7 ft) long.
4. How much do mountain lions weigh?
One of the most interesting facts about mountain lions is that they weigh about the same on average as human beings. Male cougars weigh on average 68 kilos (150 lb), ranging from 53 to 100 kilos (117 to 220 lb). Female cougars weigh on average about 55 kilos (121 lb), ranging from 29 to 64 kilos (64 to 141 lb).
5. Where do mountain lions live?
Cougars are some of the most versatile cats on the planet. They have a very wide range and can be found from Canada to South America. They are also able to live in various types of habitat such as forests, mountains, and even deserts.
6. One of the most interesting facts about mountain lions.
The puma has a wide range of territory. They actually have the largest geographical range of any native mammal in the Western Hemisphere. The puma lives in 28 countries, from southern Alaska down to the very southern tip of Chile in South America.
7. What do mountain lions eat?
The most favorite food of the mountain lion are ungulates, in particular deer. If they live in areas where ungulates can’t be found, they are also capable of hunting other types of prey such as small mammals, rodents or even insects.
8. How do mountain lions hunt?
Cougars are animals that ambush their prey. They hide, preferably in a dense bush so the prey can’t spot them and wait patiently for the right moment to attack. This ambush predator can be considered one of the best hunters on the planet. They can leap over 40 feet (12 meters) away and 15 feet (4.5 meters) high.
9. How many subspecies of mountain lions are there?
There used to be a total of 32 subspecies, but scientific research discovered that many of these were too closely related to be considered a subspecies. So in 2005, 6 subspecies were left after this research. This has been revised yet again in 2017 through and now only 2 subspecies are officially recognized, the South American Cougar (scientific name: Puma concolor concolor) and the North American Cougar (scientific name: Puma concolor couguar).
10. How long do mountain lions live?
In the wild, mountain lions have a lifespan of between 8 to 13 years. Female cougars can live up to 18 years though. In captivity, cougars can easily live up to 20 years.
11. When are mountain lions active?
Mountain lions are considered to be both nocturnal and crepuscular animals. This means they are mostly active at night and during twilight.
12. Is it easy to spot a mountain lion?
Sightings, and especially daylight sightings are pretty rare. Cougars are very reclusive animals that avoid human contact at all costs, except when somebody comes into their territory.
13. How many mountain lions are left in North America?
Most of the cougar population has been exterminated in the east of Northern America due to the growing human population. In the 1970s, operations started to protect the territory of cougars which allowed its population to grow again. It’s estimated that about 30,000 wild mountain lions live in the USA today.
14. Do mountain lions attack humans?
Because of the expansion of human territory, it happens more and more that it overlaps the territory of mountain lions. In general, mountain lions don’t recognize human beings as prey. Research has shown that the majority of attacks would happen with females who are protecting their cubs.
15. How many attacks on humans have there been?
The fact that cougars don’t see human beings as prey doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. There have been 88 attacks reported in North America since 1890 of which 20 have been fatal.
16. What sounds do mountain lions make?
Cougars aren’t able to make the roaring sound of other big cats like lions. They rather make a growling and purring sounds which actually resembles the average domestic housecat.
17. How do mountain lions generally look?
The tawny coat of the puma shows a lot of resemblance to that of the real lion. That’s also the reason they got their name “mountain lion.” Their front legs have large paws and serve as perfect weapons during an attack. Their back legs are very long and powerful.
18. How do the cubs of mountain lions look?
The cubs of the puma are spotted and have rings on their tails. These spots gradually go away as they grow older. Cubs are born completely blind so they are fully dependant on their mother. They have amazing looking blue eyes.
19. Mountain lions only have one enemy.
Because mountain lions are so powerful and amazing hunters, nobody dares to mess with them. That doesn’t mean that confrontations never happen though, but they aren’t actually hunted by other predators themselves. They only have one real enemy and those are humans.
20. Are mountain lions completely solitary?
It’s a common belief that mountain lions are completely solitary in their adult life. They mark their territory and don’t want anybody intruding on it. Mothers take care of their cubs and release them as young adults. A study led by Mark Elbroch from the Panthera organization in Wyoming has shown that mountain lions might not be as solitary as initially thought and do sometimes socialize.
21. Do mountain lions share prey?
One of the finding s of this behavioral study is that cougars sometimes share prey with one another. They form small communities based on the territory of dominant males and allow each other in so to speak to feast on a recent kill. This comes down to inviting their neighbor to dinner, which isn’t antisocial behavior at all.
22. There’s one region in the east that wild mountain lions still live.
The only wild mountain lions that didn’t get extinct in the east of North America is the Florida mountain lion. Even though their population has drastically shrunk, efforts from various organizations and the government ensured their population not only remains steady but actually grows again.
23. Mountain lions don’t hunt a lot
Because of their powerful legs and large paws, pumas are able to kill pretty large prey such as an elk or deer or even a moose. This allows them to eat from it for several days or even weeks. They will hide the carcass and come back to it whenever they are hungry. This means they don’t need to hunt every day, sometimes not even every week.
24. One of the most violent facts about mountain lions.
If a young male mountain lion is old enough to leave the mothers’ nest, he needs to leave the dominant males’ territory immediately. If he doesn’t do that, his own father might kill him.
25. The survival rate of cubs is low.
A mother mountain lion gives birth about once every two years and may have 1 to 6 cubs each time. The number of cubs that make it to adulthood is rather low, as only 1 in 5 makes it, and if they do, they need to make sure they don’t hang around in their father’s territory as well!
26. The father doesn’t care about his offspring.
It’s not just a fact that the father mountain lion appears to kill his own offspring if they wander around in his territory, he also doesn’t care at all about their upbringing. The male and female mountain lion only meet each other for mating and that’s it.
27. What are the biggest threats for mountain lions?
The cougar mainly suffers from a loss in habitat and habitat fragmentation that results in a decay of their ecosystem. Hunting also poses a big threat as it results in a depletion of their prey. In Florida particularly, highways cause a big threat for cougars. Many fatal accidents are reported every year.
28. An Inca capital was built in the shape of a mountain lion.
Not too far from the mountain range on which we can find Machu Picchu, a major city in the Inca civilization named Cusco was built in the shape of a cougar. This shows the admiration the Incas had for this amazing animal.
29. Mountain lions as the mascot of sports teams.
A lot of North American sports teams have or are using a mountain lion as their mascot, and sometimes even in their logo. This isn’t exclusive to mountain lions though, panthers and jaguars are also big cats that are popular to represent sports teams. An example of a team using the Florida mountain lion in their logo is the “Florida Panthers.”