Although cougars are bigger than some “big cats” they are considered a small cat due to their ability to purr and not roar.  Cougars have over 70 different names and have the widest habitat range of any of the cats.

Lifespan

Cougars in the wild live between 10-12 years.  In captivity they can live up to 25 years.

Shape & Size

Cougars can range anywhere between 3 ½ to 6 ½ feet long with a tail that is typically 2/3 the length of its body.  Cougars weigh between 130 and 290 pounds.  Males are larger than females. 

Color Pattern

Cougars come in a range of colors from buff, to brown, to gray.  Cougars have a white underbelly and typically the tip of their tail is darker than the rest of their bodies.

Behavior

Cougars are solitary animals, only coming together to mate.  Cougars are ambush predators.  They like to ambush their prey from a rock, cliff, or higher elevation.  Females will often "scream" when they are in heat to let males in the area know.  This is how they got one of their many names "Mountain Screamer".

Habitat

Cougars are very adaptable and can live in areas that range from tropical rainforests, high mountains, to conifer forests, and even the desert.

Principal Threats

People are the cougar’s number one threat.  People have driven cougars out of the eastern part of the United States due to hunting and urbanization.  Cougars no longer reside east of the Mississippi River except for a small pocket in Florida, known as the Florida Panther. 

Puma concolor

Range Map

Range

Cougars have the widest range of all cat species.  They live as far north as Canada and as far south as Argentina.  Cougars were once prevalent in the eastern part of the United States but have been driven out west of the Mississippi River and no longer can be found on the east coast except for a small population in the Florida Everglades called the Florida Panther.

Food

Cougars eat small mammals including rabbits, mice, and hares. Occasionally they will eat livestock including sheep and young cattle.  They are capable to taking down a moose but mostly stick to deer.

Reproductive Habits

Cougars have an average gestation period of 92 days and have a litter of 1-6 kittens per litter but the average is 2-3.  The kittens are born with spots that disappear as they get older, and they begin to eat solid food around 6-7 weeks of age.

Behavior

Cougars hunt primarily at dusk and dawn when their prey is more visible.  Cougars are known for their high pitch humanlike scream that can be heard sometimes at night where they are known to reside.  This scream at times is a warning to others but typically is from a female in heat.  The female lets out this scream to let the males know she is ready to mate. 

Conservation

Cougars are listed as “Endangered” in the Endangered Species Act but this refers only to a couple of the sub species including the Costa Rican Puma, Eastern Puma, and Florida Panther.  The major threat to cougars is habitat loss.  They have been driven to local extinction east of the Mississippi due to habitat loss.

Fun Facts

  • Cougars have over 70 different names
  • Cougars have large hind legs that help propel them into the air.  They have larger hind legs than front legs
  • Cougars are able to jump up to 15 feet in the air and 40 feet horizontally
  • Cougars have a large, thick tail that can be used as a rudder, to change direction in mid air when they are jumping after prey