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Puma concolor

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Puma
Species: concolor
Binomial name
Puma concolor
The puma (Puma concolor, or Felis concolor) is a type of large hunting cat found in North and South America. It is also known by the regional names of cougar, mountain lion, panther, catamount and painted cat. The term panther is more commonly associated with the black color variation of the leopard or the jaguar. That said, cougars are genetically closer to leopards than to lions.

Table of contents
1 Subspecies
2 Population and Distribution
3 Physical Characteristics
4 Behavior
5 External Links


The Florida panther is a rare subspecies of puma that lives in the swamps of southern Florida in the United States, especially in the Everglades. There is currently a widespread effort in Florida to try to save the remaining population of Florida panthers as their numbers are extremely sparse.

Population and Distribution

Before the modern human population explosion in the Americas the mountain lion ranged from northern British Columbia to southern Argentina. Even now it has the biggest range of any New World land animal, spanning 110 degrees of latitude.

Cougar Populations of the United States

Hunted almost to extinction in the United States, the puma has made a dramatic comeback with an estimated 30,000 individuals in the western United States. Pumas are gradually extending their range to the east, following creek and river beds, and have reached Missouri and Michigan. It is anticipated that they will soon expand their range over the entire eastern and southern United States. Due to urbanization in the urban-wildland interface, pumas often come into contact with people, especially in areas with a large population of deer, their natural prey. They have also begun preying on pets, such as dogs and cats, but have rarely turned to people as a source of food.

There are an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions in California. There are an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 lions in Colorado.

Physical Characteristics

Puma, photographed in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, Arizona

Mountain lions are tawny-colored with black-tipped ears and tail. The mountain lion can run as fast as 30 mph, jump 20 feet from a standing position, vertically leap 8 feet or more, and often weigh more than 150 pounds. Their bite strength is more powerful than that of any domestic dog. Mountain lion claws are retractable and they have four toes. Adult males may be more than eight feet long (nose to tail), and weigh about 150 pounds. Adult females can be seven feet long and weigh about 75 pounds. Mountain lion kittens have brownish-blackish spots and rings on their tails. Their life span is about a decade in the wild and 25 years or more in captivity.

The pumas that live closest to the equator are the smallest, and increase in size in populations closer to the poles.


Mountain lions normally hunt large mammals, such as deer and elk, but will eat small animals if the need arises. They hunt alone and ambush their prey, often from behind. They usually kill with a bite at the base of the skull to break the neck of their target. The carcass of the kill is usually then buried or partially covered to protect it for several days, while the mountain lion continues to roam and comes back for nourishment as needed. Adult males tend to claim a 100-square-mile stretch for their territory; adult females take 20-60 square miles on average; however their ranges can vary anywhere from as many as 370 square miles to as few as 10 square miles, depending.

Attacks on Humans

Attacks on humans are rare, but do occur--especially as humans encroach on wildlands and impact the availability of the cougar's traditional prey. There were around 100 cougar attacks on humans in the USA and Canada during the period from 1890 to January 2004, with 16 fatalities; figures for California were 14 attacks and 6 fatalities.

On January 8, 2004 a cougar killed and partly ate a mountain biker in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, Orange County, California; what is assumed to be the same animal attacked another mountain biker in the park the following day, but was fought off by other bikers. A young male cougar was shot nearby by rangers later in the day.

Mountain Lion Safety Tips

These safety tips were provided by the California Department of Fish and Game and compiled for the Orange County Register by news researcher M. Doss:

External Links