The Solitary Cougar: 13 Fast Facts!


Gorgeous Puma Concolor, I admire and respect your ways, and I hope we never meet…


Captain and I discovered this incredible adult cougar print on our road in the forest.  It was about 4″ long!  We regret deeply that we didn’t get back out to take a plaster cast of it before the rains came…

Oh mountain lions! We are certainly on the lookout these days for these magnificent creatures, as we have been finding scat around regularly.  We do live in the Sierra Nevada, where cougars, black bears, rattlesnakes and bobcats share the land, but there is something especially eerie about the thought of a large cat stalking my kid or dogs.  It is simply a responsibility of the land in which we live.  Captain knows that she cannot run around outside alone during these times. She is learning to live as safely as possible in a remote mountain location.  This does not mean that I don’t watch her like a hawk!  It just means that we exercise precautions as necessary.

Lately, we have found a LOT of cougar scat all around us, and do know that they are on the move.  They are solitary and elusive, mostly moving about at dawn and dusk, and to see one is a rare sight. My husband, K, and I did see one years ago while driving slowly home down the dirt road one night.  The headlights flashed upon a face in the trees that nearly took our breath away!  A fleeting glance was enough to see and feel the power and beauty of this animal.  I would like to share some facts about our calm, and quiet, friend, the cougar.

1. Mountain lions are also known as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts, and many other names as well.  In fact they hold the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of names in the world.  The term “mountain lion” is incorrect actually.  They do not only reside in the mountains, and they do not roar like a lion, but it is a name coined “back in the day” and it has kind of stuck.

2. Cougars have powerful limbs and can leap as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet.  Their top running speed is between 40-50 mph (64-80 km/h)!

3. Cougars can swim.

4. These big cats measure 2+ feet at the shoulders and weigh 110-180 pounds typically.

5. They have a lifespan of about 12 years in the wild.

6. Cougars are solitary animals.  They are extremely territorial and actively avoid other cats, except during courtship.

7. With the exception of humans, cougars have the largest range of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Their range can vary in size from 10 square miles to around 370 square miles. They are found from Canada to Argentina.

8. There are an estimated 30,000 mountain lions in the western United States.

9. They eat large mammals like deer, and also smaller mammals like mice, raccoons, rabbits, beavers and squirrels.

10. They are active hunters and will travel long distances in search of food.  They hunt alone and attack from behind, breaking the neck of their prey by biting it at the base of the skull.  Their weight coming down helps with the kill as well.

11. After killing their prey, they will bury it and leave it, coming back to feed when hungry.

12. Cougars commonly mate from December to March, but are known to mate at any time of the year.  Moms have 2-4 kittens, which they raise alone.  The kittens nurse for two months, then start to travel with mom so that she can teach them to hunt.  They will stay with her for about 1.5-2 years.

13. Mountain lions are on considered a low-alert species on the United States endangered species list, due to population increases.

Cougars are fascinating, and beautiful, and I hope they stay healthy and at a distance from our home!  We have learned to identify their scat, and will keep an eye out for scat that contains a lot of hair.  Healthy cougars tend to eat the fleshy, good, parts of their prey, and leave the skin and hair behind.  If they are unhealthy, or mal-nourished, their scat would contain hair, which would put us on extreme alert.  Mountain lions don’t tend to attack humans unless they have been imposed upon and their habitat taken, or if they are unhealthy and HUNGRY!

Let us not have these creatures get a bad rap for taking down the occasional human.  I suppose if we delved further into the story, we would find out that whole neighborhoods have been built on their land and whose fault is that?  In the meantime, we root for them!  Let them live in the peace and quiet that they are born for, and we will do our best to stay out of their way.  Thanks for reading.

I stalk you with good thoughts!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Science Rocks For Kids!, Sequoia National Forest & Park | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “The Solitary Cougar: 13 Fast Facts!

  1. rhombizoid

    Beautiful. That print is awesome!!!

  2. Next time you better get out there and get a casting of that paw print! Sorry you missed it, but at least you got to see one so perfectly formed!

    • You are right, and we will go back out immediately with the plaster if we see one again that is suitable for casting.

  3. Miriam

    Wonderful post! The possibility of mountain lions has been one of the things I’ve had to adjust to since moving to Colorado from Maine. That and rattlesnakes. I’ve got two very active boys and we like to be outside, but there are certain precautions that we have to take now that we never would have thought of in New England. I know the actual danger is very low, and I don’t let fear keep us from being outdoors; but it’s impossible not to think about it when all the trailheads have warning signs!
    Thanks for pointing out how amazing these creatures are- I just read your post to my youngest 🙂

    • Miriam, Thank you for writing! I know that you must go through the same thoughts that I do about the beauty and wonder of wildlife, and also the constant reminding to “watch for snakes!” What a difference to be in Colorado after being in Maine! We, too, also feel that nothing will keep us from the great outdoors… I hope you are enjoying your adventure in CO! Good thoughts, Karen

  4. Thank you for this post, it is amazing! I can’t imagine living in those circumstances, but in truth I think we as a family would love it.
    I think you are so blessed. Not many people are able to be so close to nature on a daily basis.

    • It is quite an adventure, and families can really enjoy this lifestyle together. Thank you for your sweet comment… now I am off to figure out how to get a woodpecker to stop making french-doors in the cabin attic! 🙂 Have a great day!

  5. What a perfect print, it would be wonderful to see one, at a safe distance of course! Thank you for sharing on Country Kids. I am going to delete and re enter your post as you linked your whole blog which will make it hard for people to find this lovely post. I would love to see more of your walks in the forest, do please join me for Country Kids again. Fiona x

    • Oh, thank you Fiona! I am sorry that I entered the entire blog 🙂 oops… I love Country Kids and found you on twitter too. Glad to have made this connection. Take good care!

  6. How are you sure it’s a cougar print? Not challenging you. Wanting to learn. =)

    • Hello! I don’t mind this question at all. We looked it up to be sure and there is no question as to the shape and depth of the print. We also live in an area that has a considerable mountain lion population, and have seen a lot of scat around too so we are sure that this is correct. You make a good point about questioning though, as we thought for years that a certain print was bobcat and it turned out to be a kind of weasel 🙂

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