Cougar, Puma, Mountain Lion, Wild Cat

What you would call this wild cat depends on where you live.   Whether you call him a cougar, puma, mountain lion or something else, he is still a very powerful, stealthy cat.  

Cougars are well known for ambushing prey from high vantage points.  A cougar can leap over 16 feet, therefore they have a decided advantage over animals that may appear to be bigger than them.  At night, cougars seek their own shelter of rest in caves or dense thickets.

Facts About Cougars

You may well consider the cougar to be a beautiful cat, but he is definitely not an animal that should be underestimated.   It is best to admire or observe a cougar from a great distance, and preferably though a long range camera lens like the one I used to capture the images in this article.  

  • Cougars are classified as "small cats", not big cats  (not because of size, but because they do not roar)
  • Largest of the small cat species
  • Size:  Males up to 7½ feet, females are smaller
  • Weight:  Males up to 220 lbs - Females up to 145 lbs
  • Cougars growl, rather fiercely, but they do not roar
  • Regions include:  North, Central and South America from southern Canada to Cape Horn
  • Habitat:  Any terrain with enough cover
  • Active Day and Night
  • Frequently stalk their prey, waiting for the best opportunity or high vantage point
  • Carnivore Diet:  Deer, elk, hares, raccoons, beavers, sheep, goats or domestic livestock, seals or otters where available
  • Has 5 retractable claws on front paws, and 4 retractable claws on back paws
  • Most American cats are rarely seen, but we see their territorial "markings" on trees or in the soil
  • Cougars live alone except when parenting
  • Females are the only cat involved in parenting and cubs stay with their mothers for up to 2 years
  • Life Span:  20 years in captivity, average lifespan in the wild, 13 years

There are less than 30 reported human deaths that can be attributed to cougar attacks in the last century.  Since cougars have the most widespread distribution of any American cat species, it is best to know the wildlife inhabitants of any area before you hike or bike.  

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  1. I didn't realize that a Cougar and a wild cat were the same thing, as well as being called a mountain lion or a Puma. For a short time I lived half-way up Stumphouse Mountain in western South Carolina on the edge of the Blue Ridge mountains. The property was surrounded by National forests. The nicest part of living there was having no ambient light, so it was very dark at night (allowing for fantastic star-gazing). We were out on the deck one night, looking at the stars, when movement caught my eye. I turned and saw an animal leap down from a small rise about 40 feet from us, pause, then run away from us off into the forest across from our house. I couldn't get a clear view due to the darkness, but it moved like a cat and was about the size of the Cougar you describe here. It was a bit frightening, actually, as we were not used to living so isolated and in a place where wild animals lived. At the same time, it was rather fascinating. The next day I asked my landlord who had a house further down the property what it could have been and he said it might have been a mountain lion. A rather interesting experience. I'm glad we were only a few feet from the door to our home. :) I never saw it again, although we did see a bear one day near the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel in the Heritage Preserve Wildlife Management Area near us. Enjoyed your article about the Cougar. In the future, I think I'd like to just visit them in a zoo setting. :)

  2. Fascinating! Although I've never seen one there, others have reported seeing cougar tracks on our Templeton property, and someone spotted an actual cougar there. I try not to walk there alone from dusk on.

  3. Wow I did not know all this about the cougars. They are beautiful, but as you said better to be seen through a long range viewing device than up close and personal. They just might take a bite out of you!


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