Cougar (Puma concolor) – Also known as mountain lion, puma, panther, and catamount, the cougar is one of two members of the genus Puma, the other being the South American Jaguarundi.
This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere other than humans, extending from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America.
It is the fourth heaviest cat in the world, after the tiger, lion, and jaguar, although it is most closely related to smaller felines.
It is thought that an ancestor of today’s Puma migrated across the Bering Land Bridge approximately 8 to 8.5 million years ago.
When the original population of Puma concolor became extinct during the last glaciation 10,000 years ago, it is believed that North America was repopulated by a group of South American cougars.
There are six recognized subspecies of puma, five of which are solely in Latin America.
A slender and agile cat, the cougar has the highest jumping ability of any cat (18 ft).
It can also jump between 20-40 feet horizontally. The cougar can run as fast as 35 mph, and is adept at climbing. Males average 115-160 lbs, females 75-105 lbs.
Coloring is typically tawny, but ranges to silvery-grey or reddish.
Although not strongly associated with water, it can swim. Cougars do not roar, like other big cats.
They communicate using hisses, growls, and purrs, as well as chirps and whistles.
The cougar has the one of the highest success rates as far as kills per attempts.
It will eat any animal it can catch, but its most important prey species in North America are various deer species, and occasionally even large moose.
An ambush predator, it attacks by stalking, leaping powerfully onto the back of its prey, and delivering a suffocating neck bite.
Cougars generally kill one large animal every two weeks, bury what they don’t eat, and return to feed over a period of days.
Attacks on humans are rare, and usually occur when the cat habituates to humans due to growth of urban areas into cougar ranges.
Children are at greatest risk of attack, with over 60% of all victims of cougar attack being children.
Being a highly secretive animal, the cougar has fared somewhat well even though it is still widely hunted.
The total cougar population is currently estimated at around 50,000, and some states have adopted protection laws for them.
However, with the exception of a tiny subspecies population Florida, there are no verified cougar populations east of the Mississippi River.