We’re Not Mountain Lion About These Facts

from Wildlife Promise

NWF’s California Director is writing a book on wildlife and to help her out we asked our Facebook community what they would like to know about mountain lions. We received fantastic questions and decided everyone should have access to the answers. Go ahead and prowl through these cool mountain lion facts!

1. Mountain lions, pumas, and cougars are all the same species.

As it turns out, mountain lions, panthers, pumas and cougars are all the same species: Puma concolor. They have a lot of names. In fact, they are listed in dictionaries under more names than any other animal in the world! My favorite is ‘ghost cat‘.

Mountain Lion

Photo of Puma concolor, also known as a mountain lion, cougar, puma and panther. (Photo by California Department of Fish and Game)

2. Only one sub-species is listed as endangered in the United States.

Historically, mountain lions roamed most of the United States. Today, the species is nearly extinct in eastern states, except for the endangered Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi). There are fewer than 100 Florida panthers left in the wild. Most western states consider mountain lion populations sustainable enough to allow managed sport hunting (except California). Authority for setting and carrying out hunting programs is held by each state’s wildlife management agency.

Collared panther known as FP 110 and her kitten. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife)

Collared Florida panther known as FP 110 and her kitten. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife)

3. Mountain lions can live in nearly any type of American ecosystem.

These wild cats can live in deserts, snowy mountains or backyards. Mountain lions try to avoid people, but development has made urban encounters more common, like this cyclist in Los Angeles and this backyard habitat in Los Alamos. Here are a few tips for homeowners in areas where mountain lions range to create safe & wildlife-friendly yards to facilitate a peaceful coexistence.

This mountain lion visited a backyard pond in Los Alamos. (Photo by Hari Viswanathan.)

This mountain lion visited a backyard pond in Los Alamos. (Photo by Hari Viswanathan.)

3. They can jump 15 feet high and 40 feet in distance.

Oh, and they can also sprint up to 50 miles per hour. Their hind legs are the largest (proportionately) in the cat family and their paws are irresistibly huge & adorable. These characteristics give them impressive jumping and sprinting abilities.

This leaping mountain lion is demonstrating their incredible agility.

This leaping mountain lion is demonstrating their incredible agility. (Photo by myheimu)

4. They are well-adapted for the quick capture and kill of prey.

The agility, vision and adaptability of mountain lions make them fantastic hunters. As ambush hunters, they stalk prey silently and wait for it to move within about 50 feet. Then they attack. The claws of mountain lions help grip prey, while their jaw muscles deliver a powerful strike to the neck. Mountain lions have teeth designed to cut through meat and tendons. Zombies wouldn’t even stand a chance against these predators.

Mountain lion teeth designed to cut through meat and tendons. (Photo by California Department of Fish and Game)

Mountain lion teeth designed to cut through meat and tendons. (Photo by California Dept. of Fish & Game)

5. Mountain lions are not always the apex predator.

Although they are nearly perfect predators, mountain lions may yield to species like the gray wolf, black bear and grizzly bear depending on their location. They are fast sprinters, but not built for endurance. When they are trying to outrun danger, mountain lions may climb a tree to catch their breath and recover.

Mountain lion sharpening claws at the Wildlife Prairie State Park.

Mountain lion sharpening claws at the Wildlife Prairie State Park. (Photo NaturesFan1266)

6. They prefer wild game over domestic animals.

Mountain lions are carnivores and rarely eat vegetation. They seem to prefer deer in much of their U.S. range, but as opportunistic hunters, mountain lions will also go for moose, bighorn sheep or even smaller prey. Mountain lions play a crucial role in managing deer populations, and don’t pose a risk to prey populations in their range. When both wild game and domestic animals are accessible and available, research suggests that they prefer wild prey.

Mountain lion cubs at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue.

Mountain lion cubs at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. (Photo by Lorene Auvinen)

7. Mountain lions are solitary and avoid humans.

Their nature is to avoid humans. However, if you DO encounter a mountain lion, here’s what to do:

  • Don’t run away. Remember how fast they run? Bad idea.
  • Give it a way out. It wants to avoid you. Allow it a path to get away.
  • Slowly back away.
  • Make yourself big and loud. Put your hands up and talk in a loud voice.

8. Baby mountain lions have spots and blue eyes.

They eventually grow out of their spots and blue eyes. I’m still waiting to grow out of my freckles.

The newest addition to the Big Run Wolf Ranch, a baby mountain lion.

Baby mountain lion at Big Run Wolf Ranch. (Photo by Tom Gill)

9. We can all help protect mountain lions.

Many local mountain lion populations are decreasing, primarily due to habitat loss and uncontrolled hunting. The Florida panther, specifically, is listed as endangered. Currently, there are fewer than 100 Florida panthers left in the wild. You can symbolically adopt a mountain lion, or the Florida panther subspecies and help NWF protect and recover the wild places that sustain wildlife. Additionally, homeowners in areas where mountain lions range can create safe & wildlife-friendly yards.

AdoptNow-150x26-Green

Symbolically adopt a mountain lion today to help support our work to protect them and other wildlife.

 

Thanks to researcher Michael Drake, NWF Naturalist David Mizejewski and NWF Senior Wildlife Biologist Doug Inkley for helping with this post.