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ANIMAL
OF THE WEEK
Once known as the Siberian tiger because of where it lived, it is now referred to as the Amur, named after the Amur River in Russia where many of these tigers now live. read more >

Cougar

Scientific name: Puma concolor stanleyana


CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY:
Felidae

FEEDING TYPE: Carnivore
STATISTICS:
Weight: 79-225 lbs; Height: 23-28 in; Length: 4-8 ft

DESCRIPTION:
The cougar is large in size and has a slender, powerful build. It has a long, cylindrical tail that makes up over half of its total body length. Compared to other large cats, it has longer and more powerful hind legs, and its skull is smaller and rounder with a shorter face.

The cougar’s coat color varies depending on where it lives. It ranges from gray-brown closer to northern territories or reddish to almost black in southern areas. Black cougars have only been spotted once in southern South America. As with the color, the coat can range from short and bristly in more tropical regions to longer and fuller in northern regions. Kittens have spotted coats when they are young.

RANGE:
Southern tip of South America up into isolated pockets of Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

HABITAT:
Coniferous forests, lowland tropical forests, swamps, grasslands, dry brush country, rugged snow-covered mountain slopes or any area with adequate cover to stalk prey.

ADAPTATIONS:
The cougar is generally solitary and only joins another to mate. With overlapping home ranges, a male may mate with more than one female at a time, but a female generally only mates with one male during an estrus or breeding cycle.

A cougar is an excellent predator. Everything about this entirely meat-eating mammal is designed to help it find and catch prey. It has an incredible 287˚ field of vision and can hunt proficiently at night as well as in the daytime.

Since its habitat and range vary so much, the cougar has also adapted to hunting many different species of prey. Many of the cougar’s prey animals outsize it with a 2.4 to 1 ratio. Both male and female cougars can take down a full-grown bull elk. The cougar stalks its prey through the brush and then attacks, making the killing bite behind the animal’s head on the spine.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
Male and female cougars become sexually mature around 24 months, though it is not uncommon for females to breed around 20 months. After a gestation period of about 88 to 96 days the mother cougar will find a secluded area to give birth to her young. She raises kittens independently. Typically, a litter will consist of one to six kittens though the average is two to three.

Kittens are born with a spotted coat that helps them blend in with their surroundings. The mother will start to introduce the young to the kill as early as seven weeks and begins to teach them hunting techniques soon after. Once they are old enough to take care of themselves, usually around two years of age, the mother will discourage the young from staying with her and they venture off to form their own home ranges.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to other cougars, bears, grey wolves, and man
Predator to elk, deer, moose, caribou, small rodents, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, fish, and man.

WILD DIET:
Moose, elk, deer, caribou, small rodents, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, snails, and fish

STATUS:
Listed as threatened or endangered species dependent upon region

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • Out of all of the mammal species in the Western Hemisphere, the cougar has the widest natural distribution.
  • The cougar appears to have more names than any other cat including: puma, mountain lion, American lion, Mexican lion, red jaguar, mountain screamer, and catamount.
  • A cougar will usually stay within an 87 square mile area.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Brakefield, Tom. The Kingdom of Might The World's Big Cats. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, Inc, 1993, p. 119-133.
  2. Hansen, Kevin. Cougar The American Lion. Flaggstaff AZ: Northland Publishing Company, 1992.
  3. Novak, Ronald M. Walker’s Mammals of the World. Vol. Il. Baltimore, Maryland. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1991
  4. Owen, Weldon. Great Cats Majestic Creatures of the Wild. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc, 1991.
  5. Seidensticker, Dr. John and Lumpkin, Dr. Susan. Great Cats. Majestic Creatures of the World. Rodale Press, Emmaus, Pennsylvania. 1993, p. 30, 130-137.

Published: April 2009

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