Scientific Name: Puma concolor
The cougar is a wild cat found in many different habitats throughout North America, Central America and South America. The cougar has more names than any other animal, including mountain lion, silver lion, Mexican lion, mountain screamer, red tiger, panther, puma, deer tiger, mountain cat and catamount. Cougars are the fourth largest cat of all the wild cats and currently listed by the IUCN as Least Concern.
With less than 100 cats living in the wild, many people consider the Florida panther, a cougar subspecies, critically endangered. You can find a petition to officially list the Florida panther as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED here.
In Brazil and Peru, the cougar is considered Near Threatened.” Of the four subspecies of cougar found in Canada, one has been officially listed as Endangered.
More About the Cougar
The cougar is a member of the Puma genus. Other members of this genus include:
- Puma pardoides (Owen’s Panther)
- Puma yagouaroundi (jaguarundi)
There have been descriptions of 32 cougar subspecies. According to genetic analysis however, there are six subspecies:
- Puma concolor couguar (North America)
- Puma concolor costaricensis (Central America, also known as the Costa Rican cougar)
- Puma concolor anthonyi (eastern South America)
- Puma concolor concolor (northern South America)
- Puma concolor cabrerae (central South America, also called the Argentine puma)
- Puma concolor puma (southern South America)
A possible 7th subspecies is the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi) Cougars generally live between 10 to 12 years in the wild.
Cougars can be found throughout Canada, the United States, Central America and South America. The geography of the areas where cougars can be found is extremely varied, including forests, swamps and mountain terrain. Males cougars roam from 93 to 600 miles, while females will roam between 65 and 310 miles.
Male cougars weigh between 115 to 220 lbs and average around 8 ft in length from nose to tail, with a range of 4.9 to 9.0 ft. Females are smaller, weighing between 64 and 141 lbs, and averaging approximately 6.7 ft. in length. Cougars that live closer to the equator are smaller than those that live further away. The fur of the cougar is varied, from light buff to reddish-brown or even silver-grey, with a white underbelly. The tip of the cat’s tail is dark, as well as its ears. Relative to its size, the hind legs of the cougar are larger than any other wild cat. They can jump vertically as high as 18 feet and horizontally up to 45 ft. The cougar can also run up to 50 mph. The cougar has long canine teeth set in muscular jaws, which enables it to grip large prey with its teeth. The cat’s teeth are also extremely sharp and can cut through bone, meat and tendons.
Hunting & Prey
Cougars relay on sight more than smell when hunting. Cougars prey on deer, rodents, sheep, cattle and even horses. They will also eat insects. The cat will typically stalk and then ambush their prey.
Most females will have a litter once every two to three years. They will raise the cubs on their own. The average size of a litter is two cubs, with a range of one to six. The cubs will leave their mother at around two years of age.
Conservation issues for the cougar include habitat loss, poaching, loss of prey, fragmentation, hunting and, in the case of the Florida panther, vehicle kills. Humans are the only species that prey on cougars.