Leonard and I recently saw some mountain lion (Puma concolor) tracks in Modoc County CA and followed them for quite a distance. Depending on the region, the mountain lion is called a cougar, puma, catamount, panther or mountain cat. The mascot of Penn State, my alma mater, is the Nittany Lion, named in honor of the mountain lions that once roamed Mount Nittany, which overlooks the Penn State campus.
A large, solitary cat, the mountain lion is more closely related to the small domestic cat than to the true lions of Africa. An adaptable species, mountain lions once roamed almost all of the Americas. Today they are found mostly in western North America and throughout the majority of South America. Although extirpated (rendered locally extinct) in the eastern United States following colonization by Europeans, mountain lions are slowly moving eastward. Hunting of mountain lions is permitted, but regulated, in all states west of the Rockies except California, where hunting mountain lions is prohibited. In Texas mountain lions are considered “varmint” and there are no restrictions on killing them.
Territorial with low populations densities, mountain lions prefer dense underbrush and rocky areas, although they will occupy more open sites. Humans are generally avoided.
An adult mountain lion is about the size of a human. These nocturnal creatures are typically very plain in coloration, tawny with lighter undersides and perhaps a bit darker on the paws and face.
Mountain lions are “stalk and ambush” predators and will take any prey available. Their physique is ideal for leaping and short sprints. They can also climb and swim, although water is mostly avoided. The strong jaws of a mountain lion are used to grab their prey around the neck and crush the victim’s vertebrae. The kill is dragged to a secure spot, covered with brush and then eaten over a period of days. Although deer, moose, elk, and bighorn sheep are usually considered their prey, mountain lions will also eat rodents and insects.
Although we have seen mountain lions, I am still attempting to get that elusive, good picture to share.