Mountain Lion Facts, Information, and Photos
Fierce yet graceful, the Mountain Lion is a top predator and the largest wild cat of the Americas. This big cat teaches us that we are capable of climbing fantastic heights and making great leaps if put our mind to it.
The Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) is a remarkable creature of the wild. Admired by hunters, yet loathed by farmers, it is respected and feared greatly by explorers. American Expedition is proud to present information, interesting facts & mountain lion trivia, habitat details, and photos of the Mountain Lion.
Mountain Lion Information
Mountain Lions, also known as cougars, pumas, or panthers, are North America’s largest wild cat, weighing up to 200 pounds. The male is about one third larger than the female. Their average length of head and body is 3-5 feet, and their tail is 2-2.7 feet long. Their tail, measuring nearly one-third of their total length, gives them excellent balance. When stalking and attacking prey, mountain lions utilize extraordinary leaping abilities. They are capable of running jumps exceeding 40 feet and standing vertical leaps of up to 15 feet.
Mountain lions are typically an ambush predator, stalking their prey before finding the opportunity to leap on its back and deliver a suffocating neck bite. After a successful kill of a large animal, a mountain lion will typically drag the carcass to a spot where it can be covered with brush. It will then return to feed over a period of days. Mountain lions will leave a carcass after it begins to spoil. This means that during hot weather, they may have to kill 2 or more deer per week due to spoiling of the meat.
Mountain Lions are solitary animals except during mating. They are mostly nocturnal, relying on their acute senses of vision, smell, and hearing to guide them through the darkness. An individual lion’s home range may cover from 5 to over 100 square miles. While the territories of the female and male may overlap, the territory of same sex mountain lions will not. Both sexes mark their territories with scrapes and their scent to warn other lions of their borders. Females also use scrapes and scent to advertise that they are in estrus.
There is no specific mating season for mountain lions, although most of the time it is between December and March. During mating, the male and female will stay together for 3-10 days until they depart from each other. Mountain lions are polygamous animals, meaning they mate with several others. A female is pregnant for approximately 90 days until she gives birth to either 1 to 4 cubs. Lion cubs, or kittens, have distinct black spots coving their otherwise tawny fur. The mother cares for her cubs for one to two years, until they venture out on their own. Mountain lions live an average of 12 years in the wild.
Mountain Lion Facts & Trivia
- The only wild cat bigger than the mountain lion is the jaguar.
- The scientific name of the mountain lion, Puma concolor, means “lion of one color.”
- Mountain lions hold the record for the animal with the most names. They have over 40!
- Names include "catamount", "panther", "mountain screamer", "cougar", "puma", and "ghost cat".
- Female mountain lions weigh slightly less than males.
- The color of an adult mountain lion is tawny.
- Mountain lions are capable of running at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour.
- Mountain lions prefer to avoid encounters with human beings, and attacks by mountain lions are rare.
- Mountain lions are skilled climbers, frequently dwelling in trees.
- In the last 100 years, there have been less than 20 fatal mountain lion attacks.
- The range of a mountain lion depends heavily on abundance of prey, terrain, and vegetation.
- Mountain lions often have to compete with gray wolves and bears for resources in their territories. Grey wolves are particularly troublesome, and in an area where wolves are prevalent the mountain lion may have to kill much more prey than usual because it gets chased from its prey by the pack.
- Male mountain lions that come into contact with each other will hiss and spit until one backs down. If neither backs down, they may have a violent conflict.
- Mountain lions are a generalist predator.
- Mountain lions primarily eat larger animals like deer, but in Florida they have been found to prefer feral hogs and armadillos.
- Full grown mountain lions require 8 to 10 pounds of meat per day to survive.
- Mountain lions may kill more animals during an attack than they can eat; they have been known to kill large numbers of livestock at once.
- Mature mountain lions are not preyed upon by any other species in the wild, though they may have conflicts with other predators and scavengers, such as wolves and bears.
- Mountain lions can live at elevations of up to 10,000 feet.
- Mountain lions cubs do not look like the adults, they generally have black and brown spots as well as rings on their tail. Their markings disappear as they age.
- Only about 1 in 6 mountain lion cubs survive to adulthood.
- Mountain lions are the largest cats that can purr.
- In the western United States, there are about 30,000 mountain lions.
Mountain Lion Habitat
Mountain Lions inhabit the largest overall range in the western hemisphere, extending from the Canadian Yukon all the way down to the southern Andes Mountains of Chile. They once had an extensive range through the continental U.S., although their modern range has been reduced to the western states, as well as Florida's southern gulf coast. Isolated sightings have occurred in the Midwest and northeast U.S. as well.
What do Mountain Lions Eat?
Mountain lions are a generalist predator - it will eat any animal it can catch, from insects to large animals like elk, moose, deer, and bighorn sheep. They prefer eating larger animals like deer, but in Florida they have been found to prefer feral hogs and armadillos. Full grown mountain lions require 8 to 10 pounds of meat per day to survive.
Mountain Lions and People
Hunting mountain lions can be an exciting sport. However, it is challenging and takes much patience. Depending on the state you hunt in, different rules apply. Most states allow dogs to accompany you on the hunt, because without their help, finding a lion is very difficult. The dog follows the scents and will tree the cougar, giving you a usually simple shot. If a dog does not accompany you on the hunt, it will be a little more challenging. You will have to stalk the mountain lion by following tracks and other signs of presence. In some areas, it is legal to hunt on horseback. Remember to make sure to check season dates and acquire a hunting license and appropriate tags. About 11 to 16 percent of North America’s mountain lions are killed annually by sport hunters.
Always be alert when walking alone in cat country. If you ever happen encounter a mountain lion, do not run! Keep eye contact with the cat and stand as tall as you can. Do this by raising your arms or jacket above your head. Next, back away very slowly and do not make any sudden movements. Give the lion plenty of room to escape. Mountain lions very rarely attack humans, but if a circumstance arises in which they do, always fight back. Never play dead! Most people are successful in warding them off and there have only been 21 reported deaths from mountain lions since 1890.
Mountain lions have a large range, extending from the Canadian Yukon to the Andes Mountains in Chile.
Mountain lions are excellent jumpers, capable of running jumps exceeding 40 feet, and standing vertical leaps of 15 feet.
Mountain lions are remarkably adaptable, and are capable of living at sea level, and also at elevations of up to 10,000 feet.
Mountain lions have powerful forequarters, necks, and jams which help them to grasp and hold large prey.
Mountain lions are a generalist predator - it will eat any animal it can catch, from insects to large animals like elk, moose, deer, and bighorn sheep.
Mountain lions have round heads with erect ears.
Mountain lions are the largest cats that can purr.
Mountain lions are skilled climbers, frequently dwelling in trees.
Mountain lions primarily eat larger animals like deer, but in Florida they have been found to prefer feral hogs and armadillos.
Full grown mountain lions require 8 to 10 pounds of meat per day to survive.
Male mountain lions that come into contact with each other will hiss and spit until one backs down. If neither backs down, they may have a violent conflict.