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