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Mountain Lions

Updated on August 2, 2012

Meet the Mountain Lion!

Here you will find facts about the mountain lion (Puma concolor), also known as the cougar, puma, panther, catamount, or painter.

Learn about its physical traits, habitat, range, behavior, diet, tracks, and signs.

You'll also find pictures of mountain lions and their kittens.

Physical Appearance of Mountain Lions

What do mountain lions look like?

The adult mountain lion is a large, unspotted cat with a uniform tannish, reddish, or grayish coat with a paler color on its belly. The throat and chest, as well as some areas of its face, are a creamy whitish color.

The tip of its tail is black and there are black markings on its face and ears. The head is small with short, rounded ears.

Mountain lion kittens have black or brown spots and dark-colored rings around their tails. These markings disappear as the kittens get older.

© Rinus Baak | Dreamstime.com

More Facts about Mountain Lions

Size, weight, and life span

Size

The male mountain lion can be up to eight feet in length, including the tail, which is usually 2-3 feet in length. The female tends to be somewhat shorter - up to seven feet in length.

Weight

The male mountain lion can weigh up to 250 pounds. The female usually weighs somewhat less than the male.

Life Span

The mountain lion's life span is approximately 12 years in the wild, although they have been known to live up to 20 years in captivity.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Lil Rose, on Flickr

Range of the Mountain Lion

In times past, the mountain lion had a wide range throughout the Western hemisphere. Today, their range and population has been much diminished, now being found only in the western states of the United States, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and much of South America.

In addition, there is a small population of Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryii), a subspecies of the mountain lion ((Puma concolor), in southwest Florida.

Although there have been reported sightings in the eastern part of the U.S.and eastern Canada, there is some controversy as to whether there are any breeding populations in those areas.

Mountain Lion Range Map - .

Creative Commons photo from
Brion Vibber

© Dennis Donohue | Dreamstime.com

Mountain Lion Habitat

Where does the mountain lion live?

Due to its great adaptability, the mountain lion is found in almost every type of habitat, from northern woodlands to deserts to rain forests.

Although not required, both cover for stalking and the presence of large prey species make a particular habitat attractive to the mountain lion.

© Twildlife | Dreamstime.com

The Mountain Lion's Diet

What does a mountain lion eat?

Mountain lions are carnivores and eat both larger animals such as deer and elk, as well as smaller animals, including porcupines, squirrels, foxes, skunks, coyotes, prairie dogs, raccoons, beavers, rabbits, javelinas, armadillos, birds, snakes, and rodents.

Mountain lions also occasionally prey on livestock such as cattle and sheep. In some areas, wild hogs are part of their diet. They are even know to eat insects such as grasshoppers.

Food sources vary depending on the habitat and geographical region.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Harlequeen, on Flickr

Mountain Lion Behavior

The mountain lion is a solitary and elusive creature, keeping very much to itself. It avoids contact with humans and even with its own kind.

The male is found in the company of the female only during mating season. And, of course, the kittens stay with their mother until they are able to take care of themselves.

Mountain lions can become habituated to people in areas where there is more human contact, such as certain parts of California. In this case, the mountain lion can be a danger to people.

Photo used under Creative Commons from s_mestdagh, on Flickr

Information about Mountain Lion Tracks

Mountain Lion Tracks and Sign

Describes the tracks, gaits, scat, marking sign, and feeding sign of the mountain lion, as well as similar tracks. Includes photos.

Cougar Tracks

Excellent resource for pictures of mountain lion tracks. Includes over 50 photos, with some tracks in the snow as well as some on bare ground.

Mountain Lion Tracks and Sign

Photos and facts about the mountain lion's tracks, gait, stride, scat, and scratches.

Difference Between Cougar Track and Dog Track

Provides detailed illustrations as well as photos of both cougar tracks and dog tracks, and explains the difference. Also shows domestic cat tracks and fox tracks. Don't miss the videos about half-way down the page.

Public domain photo by Larry Moats/USFWS

Safety During Mountain Lion Encounters

What to do when encountering a mountain lion

Safety Around Cougars

How to prevent an unwanted encounter and what to do if you meet a mountain lion. Includes illustration of life-sized front paw track.

Living with Wildlife in Mountain Lion Country

Precautions to take when in mountain lion country and how to behave if you encounter this creature.

Safety Guide to Cougars

Provides tips for hiking in cougar country and for avoiding confrontations with cougars. Also gives information on how to protect your pets and includes illustrations of the cougar's paw prints and gait.

Mountain Lion Attacks On People in the U.S. and Canada

Offers advice about mountain lion encounters and gives the statistics for attacks on humans in the U.S., Canada, and separately in the state of California. Includes descriptions of each attack and what was done to fend off the attack.

Confirmed Mountain Lion Attacks in the United States and Canada 1890 - 2004

Statistics demonstrate the relatively few mountain lions attacks that have occurred between these dates. Follow link for tips for dealing with mountain lions.

Public domain photo by USFWS

Mountain Lion - Scientific Classification

Mountain Lion Taxonomy:

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Carnivora

Family - Felidae

Genus - Puma

Species - Puma concolor (Mountain Lion)

Spirit of the Rockies: The Mountain Lions of Jackson Hole - By Cara Shea Blessley and Thomas D. Mangelsen

Spirit of the Rockies: The Mountain Lions of Jackson Hole
Spirit of the Rockies: The Mountain Lions of Jackson Hole

Most books about mountain lions contain only photos of this animal in captivity. Spirit of the Rockies is one of the rare books where all of the photos are of mountain lions in the wild. Mangelsen, a well-know wildlife photographer, lived near a family of mountain lions and documented their lives over a 42-day period. This book is a result of that experience.

 

Either in the wild or in a zoo...

Have you ever seen a mountain lion?

See results

All comments are greatly appreciated.

Thanks for stopping by!

Comments about Mountain Lions

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    • Meganhere profile image

      Meganhere 3 years ago

      I love the big cats, and mountain lions are beautiful. Their kittens are very cute, too.

    • sponias lm profile image

      sponias lm 4 years ago

      They are beautiful animals.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 4 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I have seen a couple of panthers out in woods where I was deer hunting. They were beautiful and minding their own business so I minded my business and just watched them. One time a grey one caught two quails. Just sneaked up on them and slapped them right out of the air and brought them to the big trail in front of my deer stand and had lunch. Left me wishing I had a camera to record this.

      TonyB

    • srsddn lm profile image

      srsddn lm 4 years ago

      Seen in the zoo many times. They wonderful creatures.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Beautiful lens, well done with lots of information. Thanks very much for sharing.

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 5 years ago

      They are beautiful animals and you have done a great job showcasing them here. Wonderful lens! Thank you for sharing

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 5 years ago from Connecticut

      I was just reading about a mountain lion that was killed by a car in Connecticut (this was an older article on the CT DEP web site). After reports of pumas, the poor cat was killed on a highway. Interestingly, it turned out to be a male that originated in the Dakotas and traveled all of the way to the east coast!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      The Lion Park in Johannesburg is a delight to be at. Do give it a visit if your a lion lover.

    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 5 years ago

      Beautiful photos and great information about these majestic mountain lions. I did not know the kittens were spotted. Thanks for sharing.

    • VladimirCat profile image

      Vladimir 5 years ago from Australia

      How very BIG a mountain lion is! That takes a lot of food and I don't mean kibble

    • profile image

      seegreen 5 years ago

      I saw a mountain lion in my friends back yard in Arizona some years ago. They had put a large fish pond in when they moved in and couldn't figure out where the fish were going until one day while eating dinner they saw a mountain lion and cubs in the back yard fishing. The mountain lion still visits but they don't fill the pond with fish anymore. It was wonderful to see but got a bit scary when it saw me with only 15 feet and a glass window between us. I didn't feel quite so comfortable swimming in their pool the next day.

    • lclchors profile image

      lclchors 5 years ago

      We have mountain lions here is KS, my husban once saw one sitting on a hill side and I once heard one near sunset while hunting pheasant, errie sound

      they are beautiful animals and nice lens

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      aren't they sensational animals, absolutely love any version of the "cat" - beautifully presented.

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image

      WindyWintersHubs 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      I've only seen a cougar once (behind our house when I was little) but I've seen a few in zoos and on game farms.

    • profile image

      Funny_Beekeeper 5 years ago

      Truly magnificent creatures! I like your photo of the baby mountain lion, he looks so sweet ;) Too bad he won't stay so little forever ;)

      Squidliked!

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      What beautiful creatures - and quite impressive photos! Thanks for sharing!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 5 years ago

      I've never come face to face with a mountain lion

    • BuddyBink profile image

      BuddyBink 5 years ago

      I do love the kitties, big or small. A wonderful lens about a beautiful animal. Thanks

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 5 years ago

      Such beautiful cats! I loved the photos.

    • profile image

      Lindrus 5 years ago

      I love cats - big or small - so thanks for your nice lens!

    • CNelson01 profile image

      Chuck Nelson 5 years ago from California

      We had mountain lions on the ranch where I grew up. We saw them rarely but they took some cattle. I usually carried a side arm and frequently turned around to look behind when walking. I heard one scream at night once when I was young.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful article! I love big wild cats. So beautiful. :)

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      They are beautiful big cats when viewed from a distance :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have friends who live in Colorado and have mountain lions around near their house although I hope never to meet it

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

      I am glad I have never seen one in the wild. It would have made me very nervous!

    • profile image

      AskLou1 5 years ago

      I've only seen on in a zoo, but I know they live around here. Great information!

    • micheleburke profile image

      Michele Marie Burke 5 years ago

      Beautiful animals...Great lens!

    • Ann Hinds profile image

      Ann Hinds 5 years ago from So Cal

      Mountain lions live in our area but we only see them from afar. Beautiful lens about this incredible creatures.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have only seen them in the zoo, but I found that interesting that they live longer when they are in captivity, once again a really well put together article and great pictures

    • cajkovska lm profile image

      cajkovska lm 5 years ago

      Nice lens and beautiful photos.

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 5 years ago from Connecticut

      Your nature and animals lenses are always so appealing and well done, and the photos are wonderful.

    • SophiaStar LM profile image

      SophiaStar LM 5 years ago

      Beautiful and informative tribute lens to an amazing animal!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 5 years ago

      Nice lens

    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 5 years ago

      Beautiful images, especially the lion kitten whuch is my favorite.

    • SoniaCarew profile image

      SoniaCarew 5 years ago

      Love the pictures!

    • flicker lm profile image
      Author

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      @artbyrodriguez: Thanks! No, bobcats are a different species from the mountain lion. The mountain lion is much larger.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 5 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      these pictures are special

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 5 years ago from Albany New York

      Wow...wonderful photos. I like the baby mountain lion. I am in Florida and there are bob cats. I don't know if they're the same as a mountain lion.

    • DIY Mary profile image

      DIY Mary 5 years ago

      What a beautiful lens! I especially love the photos of the pouncing mountain lion and the paw print in the snow.

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      While it is a rare thing to spot a mountain lion, I do fairly frequently happen upon their tracks while hiking the ridges and valleys near where I live. Great lens--I especially love the photo of the big cat staring out across the snowy valley!

    • profile image

      Terrie_Schultz 5 years ago

      Great info! We have mountain lions around here. I've never seen one, but we are cautious about walking alone in the evenings because there have been occasional attacks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Interesting lens with lovely photos.