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Introduction:The Mountain Lion, also known as the Cougar, Puma, Painter, Panther and Catamount is the most widely distributed cat in the Americas. Mountain lions require a lot of room—only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile (78-square-kilometer) range. They are solitary and shy animals, seldom seen by humans.
Thus far I have been privileged to see two Mountain Lions in the Rocky Mountains. It is an eerie feeling to walk in an area where Mountain Lion tracks are plentiful and the scat piles are fresh. It will certainly raise the hair on the back of your neck. The scream of a Mountain Lion is certainly unforgettable once heard it will remain in your memory forever.
In the Rocky Mountains, Mountain Lions are expanding their home range. In 2000, a Mountain Lion was spotted on a creek in my housing development in the valley over 10 miles from any mountain.
For more information go to Mountain Lion from Animal Planet on You Tube.
The Mountain Lion, Puma concolor
An adult male, called a Tom, Mountain Lion can weigh up to 150 pounds and measure up to 8 feet in length from nose to tail. Mature females, called Queens, will measure 7 feet in length from tail to nose and weigh as much as 90 pounds.
Mountain lions mark out a home area by urinating and defecating on the ground and pulling the material along with leaves into a scrape. By doing this the Mountain Lion leaves a “sign post” about its territory. A typical male is 50-150 square miles in size while a female will have a territory of less than 50 square miles.
Life Cycle:With the exception of breeding Mountain Lions are solitary animals. Queens become sexually mature when they are about 2 1/2 years old. The young, called Kittens or Cubs, can be born at any time of the year after a gestation period of 84 to 106 days. Queens can have litters of up to 4 kittens but usually only 1 or 2 will survive. The kittens are born with spots and will learn about life as a Mountain Lion from their mother until they are about a year and a half old. Then they are kicked out and forced to find their own territory and means of survival.
Sibling groups may travel together for months before separating.
Click on the following link to view a video of a Mountain Lion Kitten (Turn the sound down because its quite annoying).
Distribution:Mountain lions were once the most widely distributed land mammal in the western hemisphere, ranging from northern British Columbia to the southern tip of South America. Before European settlement of this country, the mountain lion was distributed throughout nearly every state; but now the mountain lion is restricted to only the western states with a remnant population remaining in Florida.
Mountain Lions can be seen in all habitats of the Rocky Mountains. From the forest floor where they hunt whitetail Deer to the timber line where they will pursue Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep and Rocky Mountain Goats. There is no animal that is safe from a Mountain Lion, including mankind.
The Ultimate Predator:
A Mountain Lion is the top predator in a healthy ecosystem. They play a crucial role in helping balance the ecosystem by culling out the weak and inferior animals.
The predatory behavior of a Mountain Lion is much like a domestic cat. The Mountain Lion will generally conceal itself and relies on a surprise attack to gain the upper-hand in struggle between life and death. A twitching tail and upright ears will be seen on a Mountain Lion that is stalking its prey. An agitated Mountain Lion will lay back its ears and snarl loudly.
Throughout the Rocky Mountains, mountain lions rely on the deer and elk as prey but it is an opportunistic feeder and will just as easily eat mice, rabbits, beaver, grouse, coyotes, raccoons, porcupine and occasionally livestock.
The size to strength ratio of a Mountain Lion is incredible. It is able to take down animals many times its own size. A 400 pound animal is no match against a Mountain Lion. When it kills an elk the Mountain Lion will land on its neck and pull the elk's head back with its front legs with a force strong enough to break the neck. They typically will hide or bury the carcass and feed on it for several days before moving on for the next meal.
Threats from Mankind:Mountain lions are prized by hunters and hated by ranchers when their livestock was destroyed. As a result, they were virtually eliminated from most of their natural range in the Midwest and Eastern U.S. prior to the start of conservation efforts in the mid-20th century. Today only the endangered Florida panther survives along with the Mountain Lion of the West.
Conflicts are increasing due to increasing populations of Mountain Lions and the growing trend towards building housing developments in the Mountain Lions habitat. As a result, conflicts between Mountain Lions and humans are increasing. Most of these conflicts occur over food sources of some type such as garbage, pet foods or even the pets themselves. Many of these interactions involve younger Mountain Lions that are focusing on developing their own home range. In the last 100 years in North America, there have been 50 recorded attacks on humans with 10 fatalities. 9 out of 10 of those fatalities were children. In the last 20 years there have been 80 attacks. Most of these attacks are from young animals, disease has not been a predisposing factor in lion attacks.
Safety in Mountain Lion County:
[img:79777:alignright:medium:A warning sign, attm photo.]
It is recommended to carry Bear Deterrent Spray as a defense against Mountain Lion and Bear attacks.
Dogs are not a deterrent to attack from Mountain Lions. Dogs may actually lure the attacking Mountain Lion to the human.
How to reduce the chances of an encounter with a Mountain Lion:
•Don’t hike or climb alone, especially at dawn or dusk
•Make a lot of noise.
•Keep close track of young children.
•Talk loudly and carry a BIG stick.
How to reduce the chances of an attack when encountering a Mountain Lion:
•Give them a way to escape.
•Don’t turn your back on them, you will appear weak.
•Stay calm and face the lion.
•Look directly at it.
•Try to intimidate the animal by yelling and raising your arms.
•Do not run, this may trigger the lion's instinct to attack.
•Pick up small children so they don't panic and run.
•Avoid bending over or crouching.
•If the lion acts aggressively, throw rocks, branches, or whatever can be obtained without turning your back or bending over.
•Fight back if attacked. Since a mountain lion usually tries to bite the head or neck, try to remain standing and face the attacking animal.
Conservation:In most western U.S. states and Canadian provinces, populations are considered sustainable enough to allow managed sport hunting.
The Future:The World Conservation Union (IUCN) currently lists the cougar as a "near threatened" species.
However, biologists predict that Mountain Lions could possibly begin to spread back into their former home ranges. There have been Mountain Lion sightings in both Missouri and Arkansas. How will mankind respond to the Ultimate North American Predator invading urban America? It is possible, if humans allow it.