Fierce Creatures: Mountain Lion
The Mountain Lion has more names than most mammals. It is called mountain lion, catamount, panther and sometimes a puma. It is native to North America is the second largest cat in the western hemisphere by weight. They can be found in virtually all parts of North America. These beautiful wild cats are also more closely related to a house cat than other felines even with their amazing size.
Cougars are the fourth largest cat in the world. They are very slender and agile which allows them to sneak up on their prey easily. They are usually 24-35 inches tall at the shoulders and they can be 4.9 to 9 foot long including their tail. Males are typically larger than the female in both length and weight. Often the males will weigh about 220 pounds while the female comes in at up to 141 pounds. Their size and weight also depends on their location. Southern cougars are smaller than northern cougars.
There are color variations from one cat to another and their fur color also changes from infant to adult. Infants are mostly spotted but these fade away by the time they are two and a half years old and all that remains of the spots end up darker and usually appear on their flanks. When adulthood is reached their fur will be their natural color and this will not change again. This may range from a silvery grey to a more reddish colored hue, though they are typically more of a tan color with lighter patches of fur on their underbelly.
They have a round head with ears that stand up on their head unless they are stalking prey. They have retractable claws like most cats do. They also have a very solid build, especially where their jaws and front shoulders are. This helps them when it comes time to hunt.
The cougar cannot roar like most wild cats. This means that they are silent and have limited ability to communicate with other cats around them, though a mother cougar can still communicate with her offspring. They can however make low pitched hisses, purrs, growls, whistles and chirps much the same as your typical housecat. They are also able to "scream" but this noise is often misinterpreted to be calls of other types of wildlife.
They are solitary and are most active at night. They eat large animals such as the deer, moose and elk. Cougars have also been known to attack domestic animals as well, especially in the northern part of America. If the cougar is hungry however and cannot find large prey it may also eat smaller insects and rodents.
The cougar lives in rocky areas or parts of America that have a lot of underbrush though they can survive in open or flat areas. They are very territorial and typically survive in small groups though how many cats live in any particular area will also depend on where they are and how much food is available to them.
The mountain lion usually avoid people. However, there have been attacks on humans which were deadly. It is believed that the attacks are occurring at an increased rate in recent times because humans are moving further into their territory.
Some research shows that female cougars may have only one mate and the male may have a few mates at one time. Females are can usually breed by the time they are three years old and they will have a litter every two to three years. Each gestation period is about 91 days. She will deliver up to six cubs per litter.
The female is the only who cares for cubs and she is extremely protective of her cubs. She will often keep them in a den such as a cave in order to protect them. The cubs are born completely dependent upon their mother because they are born blind and they have blue eyes. This will change as they mature and their eyes will become more of a deep brown color. They will nurse from her until about three months old when she will take them to hunt with her.
By about six months old they are able to hunt small prey by themselves. Unfortunately the survival rates of babies are not great. Only about one kitten per litter will survive to become a juvenile. The ones that make it will leave their mother's care at around two years of age. Some, mostly males, may leave earlier in order to establish their own territory. The males are also more apt to go further away.
In the wild the cougar has a life expectancy of between 8 and 13 years. In the wild their primary threat is humans who hunt them because of their attacks on farm animals. For a cougar in captivity, they may live to be about 20 years old.