Young cougar among red desert rocks.
 
Book Cover of Cougar:The American Lion


COUGAR: THE AMERICAN LION, by Kevin Hansen

Chapter Two - The Cycle of Life


Pregnant females do not prepare elaborate dens. It seems matter that it provides a refuge from predators (coyotes, golden eagles, other cougars) and shields the litter from heavy rain and hot sun. Dens rarely contain any bedding for the young, though a mothers soft belly hair was found in one.(2)- (This also contradicts the popular misconception, perpetuated largely by some nature movies, that cougars always choose caves as dens.)(6)

Newborn mountain lions enter the world as buff brown balls of fur weighing slightly more than a pound.(1) Biologists call them kittens or cubs either is correct. Their eyes and ear canals are closed, their coats are covered with blackish brown spots, and their tails are dark-ringed.(2) This color pattern provides excellent protective camouflage.

Kittens begin nursing within minutes after birth and gain weight rapidly, with males tending to outpace females.(1) Nursing mothers have eight teats but apparently only six produce milk. Kittens start to compete for nipples the first day and generally suckle the same nipple whenever nursing.(4) At two weeks of age the kittens' eyes and ears are opened and they are able to walk. Within 10 to 20 days the kittens may weigh over two pounds. They begin to move awkwardly about, exploring the rock overhang, brushy thicket, or pile of boulders that serves as their den.(5)

While suckling her young the mother must occasionally leave the den to hunt. This is the time of her most restricted movement, because she does not want to venture too far from her vulnerable kittens. Still, she must hunt to sustain herself and replenish her milk. While hunting the female cougar remains within a fixed area called a home range.  Varying in size from 25 to 400 square miles,(7,8) home ranges are restricted areas of use in which cougars confine their movements while hunting, searching for a mate, or raising young. Biologists refer to the cougars that occupy home ranges as residents. Possession of a home range is critically important to a female cougar because it increases her litter's chances for survival by guaranteeing an established hunting area for the mother.

By the time kittens are weaned at 2 to 3 months, the mother has moved the litter to one or more additional den sites throughout her home range. This provides greater protection for the young and may be one reason she does not construct elaborate dens. In his book Soul Among Lions, Arizonacougar specialist Harley Shaw explains that there are other advantages to such behavior: "...kittens learn early to move around their range and not imprint upon a single home site. Home is the entire area of use. Within it, lions are free to move, hunt, and rest as their mood and physiology directs. They are not handicapped the human compulsion to return to a single safe base at night. Home is a large tract of land that they undoubtedly come to know as you and I know the floorplan of our house. They learn to be lions in this home area.(6)

The physical metamorphosis of young, growing cougars is dramatic, especially their teeth and coat. Teeth are critical to a cougar's survival, so the teeth in young cougars develop quickly. Their large canines (or fangs) allow them to capture and kill prey, while their specially adapted molars (called carnassials) are used to cut through tissue while feeding. Canines first appear at age 20 to 30 days, followed by the molars at 30 to 50 days. Permanent teeth start replacing primary (baby) teeth at about 5 1/2 months. The permanent canines first appear at month eight, and for a short time both permanent and primary canines are present.(3)

As an adult cougar's tawny coat provides camouflage while stalking prey, a kitten's spots provide camouflage from predators. Kittens begin to lose these spots at 12 to 14 weeks, they fade rapidly but are still obvious at 8 months, less so at one year. By 15 months the markings are visible only on the hindquarters and only under certain light conditions. In some cougars, the stripes on the upper foreleg are still visible at 3 years of age.(3,9)

The mountain lion's coat is not the only feature that changes color with age. Their eyes, light blue at birth, begin to change at four months and are the golden brown of adults by 16 to 17 months.(3,9)

GROWING UP AND LEAVING HOME
Female cougars probably begin leading their kittens to kills as early as 7 to 8 weeks. The mother also carries meat to her young from kills until weaning age (2 to 3 months), at which point the cubs weigh in at between 7 and 9 pounds.  As the kittens grow older, the mother will leave them at kills, frequently for days at a time, while she goes in search of the next prey.(6) As the kittens grow and become stronger, the mother will range farther in search of prey.

Biologists have frequently noted how intensely a female with kittens uses her home range. This is most concentrated subsequent to birth, then expands as the kittens are able to accompany her to kills. It's easy to imagine an insistent mother as she drags, pushes, and urges her kittens along over the many miles between kills. She expends an enormous amount of energy feeding her growing litter. As a result, the density of prey in the mother's home range affects how well she can provide for her young, which in turn influences their likelihood of survival.

Arrival at a kill is a time of both feeding and play for kittens. Vegetation is frequently disturbed for 50 feet surrounding the carcass. Grass is flattened, limbs are broken off trees and trunks are covered with the kittens' claw marks. The carcass is more fully consumed than it would be by an adult lion alone, and pieces of hair and bone are scattered about. This rambunctious play by the young at a kill is another part of their training as predators. They will stalk, attack, and wrestle with their siblings or mother, as if they were the next meal rather than their own flesh and blood. Ultimately, though, play gives way to the real thing.

As they grow stronger and more skilled at stalking, kittens will separate from their mother for days at a time and hunt on their own. This growing independence is a precursor to young lions leaving their mother and going in search their own home range. Biologists are not certain whether a mother and her young gradually grow apart, with the kittens gradually leaving of their own accord, or whether she abandons them as do female black bears with their young. Sonny Bass has found the latter to the case in Florida. "My experience with Floridapanthers in the Evergladesbased on daily tracking) indicates that the mother leaves the young."(10) Seidensticker tells of one Idahocougar that abandoned her kittens at a kill.(11) Paul Beier, who studied mountain lions in southern California, believes the mother discourages her kittens from remaining with her. "Some sort of agonistic behavior on the part of the mother is necessary to discourage the young from staying. Simply abandoning the young is not possible because they know where to find her."(12) The presence of mature resident males attracted to the female, who by now is in heat, may also discourage the young from remaining. However they separate, the kittens are finally on their own and the mother will come into heat and breed again.(6)

Kittens can survive on their own as early as 6 months.
Kittens can survive on their own as early as 6 months, such as when the mother is killed or dies of natural causes, but this appears to be rare. Typically, the young cougars will remain with their mother for 12 to 18 months. This allows them to hone their hunting skills and gives them time to develop their killing bite.(14) This bite is usually delivered to the back of the neck of large prey, severing the spinal cord and causing almost immediate death. To be executed efficiently, the bite requires practice and development of the cougar's powerful jaw muscles. Evidence seems to indicate that the behavioral patterns of killing prey may be innate, but that selection of appropriate prey and stalking may require practice to acquire the necessary skill.(1,2,6) This may explain why young cougars are sometimes found with a face full of porcupine quills, or are the culprits in attacks on domestic livestock.

The departure of young cats from their mother's home range is called dispersal, and it is a time when the young cougars are especially vulnerable; they expose themselves to the dangers of taking prey without the alternative of food provided by their mother. These young cats called transients, wander far from the familiar home range of their mother and their hunting skill are not as efficient as those of older resident cats. The dispersal ot young transient cougars out of their birth areas is crucial, however, as it reduces inbreeding and provides new blood to outlying populations.(9)

MATING
Both male and female cougars are sexually mature at 24 months, but females have been known to breed as early as 20 months;(9) a Floridapanther was recently reported as having given birth before she was 2 years old.(15) The age of the first breeding may be delayed until the female has established a home range.(16)

When it comes time to mate, the first challenge facing a male and female cougar is finding each other. Solitary and territorial by nature, cougars are frequently scattered over hundreds of miles of rugged terrain. It further complicates the matter that females are receptive to males for only a few days out of each month;(17) however, it appears to be the lions' territorial habits and keen senses that ultimately allow them to come together.

Polygamy seems to be the rule for both male and female mountain lions. Males occupy larger home ranges than females, and a resident male with a large home range typically overlaps or encompasses the home ranges of several resident females. Nevertheless, in stable cougar populations with established home ranges, females rarely mate with more than one resident male during a breeding cycle.(9)

Resident male cougars use scrapes as visual and olfactory signals to other cougars and to mark their home range area. A scrape (or scratch) is a collection of pine needles. leaves, or dirt scraped into a pile with either the forepaw or hindpaws. Occasionally they urinate or defecate on the pile. Scrapes are made throughout the home range and are frequently located along travelways under a tree(18,19) or along ridges. Females rarely scrape, more commonly burying their feces under mounds of dirt and debris; these mounds are usually found near large kills.(19)

Mountain lion authority Fred Lindzey believes scrapes help mountain lions both avoid and locate each other. "Scrapes are definitely a means of communication. They broadcast the resident male's presence to other males (residents and transients) and to females. Females may use scrapes made by the resident male to both avoid him when she has dependent kittens and to find him when she is in estrus."(20)

Adult males probably spend most of their time searching for receptive females.(21) When mating does occur, it usually takes place in the female's home range, with the male seeking out the female.(6) The female's estrous cycle lasts approximately 23 days and she is usually in heat for about 8 days. The pair may stay together for up to 3 days, sometimes even sharing a kill.(19)

Cougars compensate for long periods of solitude with some of the most vigorous breeding behavior known to exist among mammals. Copulation can occur at a rate of 50 to 70 times in 24 hours for a 7- to 8-day period.(22) Each copulation lasts less than a minute.(2) Such enthusiastic copulation in is thought to stimulate ovulation, (the release of eggs from the ovaries to make them available for fertilization). In his book The Natural History of Wild Cats, Andrew Kitchener explains the advantage of such behavior: "Most cats are thought to be induced ovulators, so that even though the female may come into estrus, no ovulation occurs unless the vagina and cervix of the female are stimulated repeatedly during mating. As a consequence of estrus lasting several days and ovulation being induced, the chance of a successful fertilization can he maximized."(23) Some biologists speculate that high copulation rates also evolved as a way for females to evaluate male vigor(1) and to ensure that their offspring receive the best genetic endowment.(24)

Cougars appear to be as vocal as they are enthusiastic during mating. The "caterwaul," characteristic in domestic cats, seems to be even louder in mating cougars. Such behavior has been documented both in captive and wild cougars.(9) Paul Bier has heard these sounds coming from mating cougars in his California study area;(12) biologist Susan de Treville, who studied mountain lions in California, was camping on the Malaspina Peninsula in British Columbia when the heard two cougars mating nearby. "Both were screaming loudly. They got to within a foot of my tent, then they gradually moved off. In the morning I found the ground torn up and all the grass flattened."(25)

After 88 to 96 days, the mother retires to the seclusion of the den and gives birth to a litter of 1 to 6 kittens (or cubs). The average litter size is 2 to 3 kittens, but a young female may produce only 1 kitten in her first litter. This seems to reduce the stress on first-time mothers, allowing them to develop their skills in rearing young. Since cougars tend to bear young every other year, a female that lives for 8 to 10 years has the potential to produce 5 litters. One captive cougar produced 7 litters in 16 years.(27) How many of the kittens survive to adulthood is still a mystery. It is also unknown if the number of offspring produced by a female cougar fluctuates in relation to the abundance of prey, as in other predators such as coyotes and barn owls. Few newly born litters have been studied closely in the wild and definitive information is lacking; however, current research underway in Yellowstone National Park and in the San Andres Mountains of New Mexicomay provide some answers about the early lives of pumas.

If a female loses her kittens to predators or other circumstances, she may begin her estrous cycle and breed again soon after the loss.(28) Sometimes, predators include male cougars; studies in Idaho, Utah, and California have documented that males do indeed kill and even eat kittens on occasion. Whether this is an evolved behavior similar to African lions is unknown, but it may partly explain why females with kittens are unreceptive to males and intolerant of their presence until the young are independent and can hunt for themselves. Females also seem to possess the ability to suppress their estrous cycle during the period they are raising young. Some experts speculate that this ability is hormonal in nature and is possibly related to lactation; others suggest that estrous cycles continue normally and the female simply works harder at avoiding males by being careful where she urinates and by burying her feces. Whether this behavior is hormonal, behavioral, or both is unknown.

Unlike most wild animals, cougars can and do give birth throughout the year, although peaks have been documented in different parts of their range. One population in Idahopeaked in the spring,(16) while cougars in parts of Utahand Wyoming(29) had fall birth peaks. Nevadabiologists documented birth peaks during June and July and noted 70 percent of all births occurred between April and September.(9) Mountain lions in and around Yellowstone National Parkgive birth primarily in midsummer.(30) Researcher Allen Anderson looked at the birth dates of 6 wild and 35 captive cougars and discovered that over half (55 percent) of the births occurred during April, June, July, and August.(1)

Biologists long speculated that in temperate climates, births occurring during the warmer months placed less stress on both the mother and kittens; however, as Harley Shaw points out, "Birth in warm months forces the mother to be feeding large young during mid to late winter. This does not reduce stress on her over the long haul."(31) It has also been suggested that in the warmer climates of Arizona, Florida, and California, births may be more evenly distributed throughout the year. Existing information from these states is inconclusive. Two more aspects of the American lion that have left experts scratching their heads.

DEATH
While all cougars enter the world in the same fashion, they leave it in a variety of ways. Existing information indicates that the three primary causes of cougar deaths are humans, natural causes, and accidents.

More mountain lions die at the hands of humans than any other known cause of death. This is as true today as it was in the past. A minimum of 65,665 cougars were shot, poisoned, trapped, and snared by bounty hunters, federal hunters, and sport hunters from 1907 to 1978 in the 12 western states, British Columbia, and Alberta.(32) This carnage seemed to peak between 1930 and 1955, with the highest numbers of pumas killed in California, British Columbia, and Arizona.(1) This sobering tally does not include the thousands of cougars slaughtered prior to the 1900s nor the untold numbers that have gone unreported since.

Today, cougar hunting is legal in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the Canadian provinces at British Columbiaand Alberta. During the 1989-1990 sport harvest season more than 2,176 cats were killed.(33) Most of these states allow hunters to kill only one lion per season with the notable exception of Texas, which has the most liberal hunting regulations and places no limits on the number of cats a hunter can take. The cougar enjoys full protection in 24 states and provinces, but has no legal classification and no protection, except in agreement with the Federal Government, in 22 other states and provinces. (3,32)

Predator control programs present yet another obstacle to the cougar's survival. The U. S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Damage Control (ADC) program was responsible for killing 207 cougars in 11 western states during the 1988 fiscal year because of attacks on domestic livestock.(34)

In addition to ADC's efforts, many states carry on their own predator control programs. For instance, in 1988, ADC killed 38 cougars in California, while the state Department of Fish and Game authorized other hunters to take an additional 28 cougars on depredation permits, for a total of 64 cats. This situation is further complicated by the fact that cougars are occasionally caught in traps set for other animals, and because there is no easy way to release them many are killed. The cats can sometimes pull themselves free of the traps, often at the cost of severed toes or broken bones. Cats that escape with minor injuries may still be capable of taking large prey and surviving, while those with debilitating injuries likely die of starvation.(9)

Collisions with motor vehicles are the primary cause of death in Floridapanthers. From 1979 to 1991, almost 50 percent of documented mortality of the Floridacats was due to collisions with autos.(35) In California, 22 mountain lions fell victim to collisions between 1971 and 1976,(7) while researcher Paul Beier lost five lions he was studying to cars.(12) Three young cougars were even killed by a train, all in the same incident, in Colorado.(1)

A number of the cats have drowned in irrigation canals,(36) or by falling into wells.(37) Cougars are capable swimmers, but the smooth concrete banks make escape difficult and the exhausted cats will eventually drown. Unfortunately, such incidents will increase as more cougar habit is encroached upon by humans.

Even in the absence of humans, cougars practice a high-risk lifestyle.
Even in the absence of humans, cougars practice a high-risk lifestyle; they are continuously exposed to injury or death because they prey on animals larger than they are. In Idaho, both male and female pumas kill male elk, an animal seven times the size of a female puma.(38) While deer, more manageable in size, are the cougar's prey of choice, some do not submit without a struggle. During attacks on deer or elk cougars have been thrown against trees so hard that their backs have been broken or they sustained massive internal injuries. They have been trampled by the hooves of deer and elk they were attacking, and even impaled on branches or antlers.(39) A debilitating injury like a broken bone can lead to starvation.

Other types of accidents include falls from cliffs, being struck by lightning, being hit by rock slides, being poisoned by venomous snakes, and choking.(3) Susan de Treville tells of a mountain lion that died from a violent encounter with a manzanita bush. "We were monitoring an old lion (9-10 years) named Snaggletooth, because he had a broken upper canine. One day we found him lying in an open field-dead. We had no idea what killed him. Later an examination revealed a 5-inch piece of manzanita in the cat's throat. Apparently, during the final rush at what we think was a deer, the cat ran into a manzanita bush at high speed driving a stab down its throat and severing the carotid artery. Failing eyesight may have been part of the reason Snaggletooth bled to death internally."(25)

There are three times during their lives when cougars are most at risk: immediately after birth, immediately after becoming independent transients, and during old age.(3) Kittens left alone at a den or kill are vulnerable to other predators, including, as has been noted, adult male cougars; it is unknown how many kittens survive to maturity, but experts suspect that kitten deaths could equal or exceed the number of cougars killed by sport hunting. Transient cougars spend most of their time in unfamiliar territory and have not honed their hunting skills, so do not hunt as efficiently as resident cougars. Old cougars experience extreme tooth wear and loss in weight, making them less efficient hunters, resulting in starvation. Old age is probably the most significant cause of death in unhunted mountain lion populations; a recent study in southern Utahshowed that the annual mortality rate in an unhunted cougar population was a fairly high 26 percent. (26) In Montana's hunted cougar populations, over 50 percent of the resident adults in one area were killed, according to research conducted there.(40)

Adult cougars do kill and even eat one another on occasion.(1) Fighting has been documented in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming, and Utah. In one study in the San Andres Mountains of southern New Mexico, fighting was found to the primary cause of death.(41) While in Florida, fighting has led to the death of six endangered panthers over the past 11 years. Of these, two were transient males dispersing from their mother's home range through home ranges of resident males courting females in heat; two were adult females killed by a young adult male; and the last two were the result of fighting between adult males.(35) Experts speculate that most conflicts are over females and home ranges, but it is still unknown precisely how much fighting contributes to overall mortality in a cougar population.

Cougars appear to suffer from relatively few internal and external parasites. Those they do contend with include an assortment of fleas, ticks, mites, and tapeworms. The puma's solitary lifestyle and its habit of spending little time in dens probably minimizes infestation.(2,3)

Deaths attributable to more serious diseases appear to be uncommon. Only two cases of rabies have been documented in wild mountain lions, one in Californiain 1909,(42) and a more recent case in Florida.(35) Naturally occurring antibodies to feline distemper were found in 85 percent of the Florida panthers tested.(43) Another mountain lion in California was recently diagnosed with feline leukemia and was killed. California Department of Fish and Game veterinarian Thierry Work thinks the cat may have been infected by eating domestic cats. The feline leukemia virus is frequently fatal and no vaccine for wild cougars exists; this disease especially threatens small, isolated populations of cougars that front on urban areas, such as in southern Floridaand southern California. Allen Anderson cautions that the widely held opinion that wild pumas are largely free of parasites and diseases may be due to the lack of specific research rather than reality.(1) Cougar diseases are just one of many aspects of the cat that need further study.




    CHAPTER NOTES

  1. Anderson, A.E. 1983. A critical review of literature on puma (Felis concolor). ColoradoDivision of Wildlife. Special Report Number 54.

  2. Dixon, K.R. 1982. Mountain lion. Pages 711-727 in J.A. Chapman and G.A. Feldhamer, eds. Wild mammals of North America. John Hopkins UniversityPress. Baltimore.

  3. Currier, M.J.P. 1983. Felis concolor. Mammalian Species No. 200, pp. 1-7. American Society of Mammalogists.

  4. Eaton, R.L. and K.A. Velander. 1977. Reproduction in the puma: Biology, behavior and ontogeny. Pages 45-70 in R.L. Eaton, ed. The world's cats, Vol. 3(3): Contributions to breeding biology, behavior and husbandry. Carnivore Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle.

  5. Young, S.P., and E.A. Goldman. 1946. The puma: Mysterious American cat. American Wildlife Institute, Washington, D.C.

  6. Shaw, H. 1989. Soul among lions. Johnson Books. Boulder, Colorado.

  7. Sitton, L.W. and S. Wallen. 1976. California mountain lion study. California Department of Fish and Game. Sacramento.

  8. Hemker, T.P., F.G. Lindzey, and B.B. Ackerman. 1984. Population characteristics and movement patterns of cougars in southern Utah. Journal of Wildlife Management, 48(4):1275-1284.

  9. Lindzey, F. 1987. Mountain lion. Pages 656-668 in M. Novak, J.A. Baker, M.E. Obbard, and B. Malloch, eds. Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America. Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario, Canada.

  10. Bass, O.L. 1991. Wildlife Biologist, Everglades National Park Research Center, Homestead, Florida. (Personal communication)

  11. Turbak, G. and A. Carey. 1986. America's great cats. Northland Publishing, Flagstaff, Arizona.

  12. Beier, P. 1992b. Project Leader, Orange County Cooperative Mountain Lion Study, Department of Forestry and Resource Management, University of California, Berkeley. (Personal communication)

  13. Hornocker, M.G. and G.M. Koehler. 1985. Reintroducing orphaned mountain lion kittens into the wild. Pages 167-169 in J. Roberson and F. Lindzey, eds. Proceedings of the second mountain lion workshop, Salt Lake City.

  14. Bogue, G. and M. Ferrari. 1974. The predatory "training" of captive reared pumas. Pages 36-45 in R.L. Eaton, ed. The world's cats, Vol. 3( 1): Contributions to status, management and conservation. Carnivore Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle. (Cited from Dixon 1982.)

  15. Maehr, D.S., J.C. Roof, E.D. Land, and J.W. McCown. 1989. First reproduction of a panther (Felis concolor coryi) in southwestern Florida. Mammalia, 53:129-131.

  16. Seidensticker, J.C., IV, M.G. Hornocker, W.V. Wiles, and J.P. Messick. 1973. Mountain lion social organization in the Idaho Primitive Area. Wildlife Monographs, 35.

  17. Rabb, G.G. 1959. Reproductive and vocal behavior in captive pumas. Journal of Mammalogy. 49:616-617. (Cited from Dixon1982.)

  18. Shaw, H. 1987. Mountain lion field guide. 3rd Edition. Special Report Number 9. ArizonaGame and Fish Department.

  19. Hemker, T.P. 1982. Population characteristics and movement patterns of cougars in southern Utah. M.S. thesis, Utah State University, Logan.

  20. Lindzey, F.G. 1991. Wildlife Biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, WyomingCooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming. (Personal communication)

  21. Hopkins, R.A. 1991. Wildlife Biologist, H.T. Harvey and Associates, Alviso, California. (Personal communication)

  22. Eaton, R.L. 1976. Why some felids copulate so much. World's cats. 3:73-94. (Cited from Anderson1983.)

  23. Kitchener, A. 1991. The natural history of the wild cats. Cornell UniversityPress. Ithaca, New York.

  24. Lynch, W. 1989. The elusive cougar. Canadian Geographic August/September: 24-31.

  25. de Treville, S. 1991. Wildlife Biologist. de Treville Environmental Engineering. San Diego, California. (Personal communication)

  26. Lindzey, F.G., B.B. Ackerman, D. Barnhurst, T. Becker, T.P. Hemker, S.P. Laing, C. Mecham, and W.D. Van Sickle. 1989. Boulder Escalante cougar project final report. UtahDivision of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City, Utah.

  27. Conklin, W.A. 1884. The mammals of the Adirondack Region, northeastern New York. L.S. Foster Press, New York. (Cited from Dixon 1982.)

  28. Hornocker, M.G. 1970. An analysis of mountain lion predation upon mule deer and elk in the Idaho Primitive Area. Wildlife Monographs. 21:1-39.

  29. Logan, K.A. 1983. Mountain lion population and habitat characteristics in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. M.S. thesis, University of Wyoming, Laramie.

  30. Murphy, K. 1991. Wildlife Biologist. Wildlife Research Institute, Inc., Moscow, Idaho. (Personal communication)

  31. Shaw, H. 1991. Wildlife Biologist, General Wildlife Services, Chino Valley, Arizona. (Personal communication)

  32. Nowak, R.M. 1976. The cougar in the United States and Canada. New YorkZoological Society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Endangered Species, Washington, D.C.

  33. Tully, R.J. 1991. Summary of 1991 questionnaire on mountain lion hunting regulations. Mountain Lion-Human Interaction Symposium and Workshop, April 24-26, Denver. ColoradoDivision of Wildlife.

  34. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1990. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Animal damage control program, draft environmental impact statement-1990.

  35. Maehr, D.S., E.D. Land, and M.E. Roelke. 1991b. Mortality patterns of panthers in southwest Florida. Proceedings of the annual conference of southeast fish and wildlife agencies. 45:In press.

  36. Macgregor, W.G. 1976. The status of the puma in California. Pages 28-35 in R.L. Eaton, ed. The world's cats, Vol. 3(1): Contributions to status, management and conservation. Carnivore Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle. (Cited from Dixon 1982.)

  37. Sitton, L.W. and R.A. Weaver. 1977. California mountain lion investigations with recommendations for management. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento.

  38. Seidensticker, J.C. 1991a. Pumas. Pages 130-138 in J. Seidensticker and S. Lumpkin, eds. Great cats: Majestic creatures of the wild. Rodale Press. Emmaus, Pennsylvania.

  39. Lopez, B. 1981. The elusive mountain lion. GEO June: 98-116.

  40. Murphy, K. 1983. Characteristics of a hunted population of mountain lions in western Montana. (Relationships between a mountain lion population and hunting pressure in western Montana.) Report to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

  41. Logan, K.A. 1991. Wildlife Research Institute, Inc., Moscow, Idaho. (Personal communication)

  42. Storer, T.I. 1923. Rabies in a mountain lion. California Fish and Game. April 9(2):45-48.

  43. Roelke, M.E. 1987. Florida panther biomedical investigation. Annual performance report. Endangered Species Project E-1-11. FloridaGame and Fresh Water Fish Commission. (Cited from Belden 1989.)

* Cougar The American Lion Line Illustrations Copyright (1992-2009) by Linnea Fronce



Chapter Index to Cougar: The American Lion

Written by Kevin Hansen in association with the Mountain Lion Foundation.


  • back of lion's head.

    Chapter 1: The Consummate Cat

    Start off by reading about the history of the cougar including the evolution of native cat species, the two dozen or so subspecies of cougars and their general appearance. Learn about their discovery in the western hemisphere by early explorers and the many names they have been given by different cultures.

  • Mother lion carrying kitten in mouth.

    Chapter 2: The Cycle of Life

    Beginning from birth, this chapter covers the life span of a cougar. A dependent kitten will mature in about two years, disperse off to establish its own home range, breed with others in neighboring ranges, and perhaps live to ten years of age. Cougars struggle mightily to survive in the face of active threats, which have greater or lesser impact depending upon their stage of life.

  • Lion peering out from overhanging cave entrance.

    Chapter 3: Cougars at Home

    Although cougars are adaptable and can survive any where that has cover and large prey, human hunting has limited them to the western portion in North America. The size and overlap of an individual's home range depends on its age and sex, and a cougar will use markings to define the borders. Get an in-depth look at their population dynamics and discover how far they will travel to find food.

  • Adult lion peering out from brush.

    Chapter 4: An Almost Perfect Predator

    A mountain lion's keen senses, muscular agility, and ability to adapt to almost any landscape and prey make it a successful hunter. Their walking stride, retractable claws and powerful jaw allow them to sneak through bushes undetected and quickly take down prey. Predators play an important role in the health of prey populations and studies have shown they do not significantly reduce the number of deer and elk in a region.

  • Kitten looking out from underneath a car.

    Chapter 5: Cougars and Humans

    Cougars were admired by many Native American cultures, and commonly found in their spiritual beliefs and folklore. But when early European explorers arrived, cougars were seen as a threat and competition. From the late 1600's to mid 1900's, bounties were often paid to anyone who killed a cougar. As ranching increased so did predator control, and then along with sport hunting, cougars were wiped out in most of the United States.