Mountain sunset.
 
Photograph of our book:  Cougar, The American Lion.
Solitary cats, unlike their African brethren, Mountain lions are highly adaptable to situations and environments, and this adaptability has enabled lions to survive across some of their original range, despite severe habitat loss and active threats.
Front cover of book:  Cougar: The American Lion.

Foreword by Robert Redford

COUGAR: THE AMERICAN LION

Read the book FREE online by clicking the chapters listed below.


Mountain lions live a short 13 years in the wild -- if they make it to old age. Today, few lions live a full natural lifespan.

It's a difficult life, full of potentially lethal challenges: even when the lion avoids humans.

They are shot for recreation, for sport, and for trophies. They are shot when a rancher's livestock is lost, and when pets disappear. They are shot when people are afraid.

The cougar works a powerful magic on the human imagination.

The cougar works a powerful magic on the human imagination. Perhaps it is envy. This majestic feline personifies strength, movement, grace, stealth, independence, and the wilderness spirit. It wanders enormous tracts of American wilderness at will. It is equally at home in forest, desert, jungle, or swamp. An adult cougar can bring down a full-grown mule deer in seconds. It yields to few creatures, save, bears and humans.

The cougar's solitary and stealthy lifestyle feeds its mystery. Unfortunately, mystery breeds fear, myth, and misinformation. Since our European ancestors first landed on American shores 500 years ago, we have waged war on large predators. The grizzly, wolf, jaguar, and cougar are now gone from the majority of their original ranges, and loss of habitat now looms as the greatest threat to the small populations that survive. Only in the last three decades have wildlife biologists begun to chip away at the fable and folklore and reveal the cougar for the remarkable carnivore that it is.

The Mountain Lion Foundation is one organization encouraging a more enlightened view of our American lion. The Mountain Lion Foundation was instrumental in the passage of the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990, which banned the sport hunting of cougars in California and set aside $30 million a year for the next 30 years for wildlife habitat conservation. Because of their extensive range and position high in the food chain, saving land for cougars also protects land for other wildlife and plants.

Robert Redford




The following are chapters from Cougar: The American Lion, written by Kevin Hansen in association with the Mountain Lion Foundation. Please note that abstracted data contained in these chapters is current only as of the 1990 publication date.

  • 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.

The American Lion:
Biology and Behavior

Spend just eight minutes and learn little known facts about the fascinating mountain lion. Get a glimpse of how a mountain lion thinks, feels, and senses. What makes the mountain lion so adaptable to a wide variety of habitats? How does their hunting differ from that of wolves and bears? What is their relationship to the ecosystem?
Lion drinking from river edge, paw in the water.

ON AIR: Deborah Jansen on Florida Panthers

04/30/10 An Audio Interview with Julie West, MLF Broadcaster

Florida Panthers face inbreeding, habitat loss, and record-high roadkills. Hear about Wildlife Bilogist Deborah Jansen's work tracking and collaring the big cats in southwest Florida, and what the future may hold for Puma concolor coryi.

ON AIR: Kim Vacariu on Continental Corridors

11/25/10 An Audio Interview with Julie West, MLF Broadcaster

In this edition of ON AIR, Kim Vacariu reveals how the Wildlands Network connects experts and landowners to protect corridors spanning the continent to maintain habitat connectivity for keystone species and prevent trophic cascades of extinction.

Sign: Evidence of a Lion's Presence

01/01/10 Mountain Lion Foundation Staff and Volunteers

Seeing a lion in the wild is an especially rare occurrence. Cougars are solitary, elusive, and very stealthy. If a cougar is in the area and you are lucky enough to detect its presence, most often it will be due to "cougar sign" and not actually seeing the animal. These signs are evidence left behind after a cougar has passed through. Cougar signs include tracks, scat, scratches and cached (partially buried) prey.

Are Deer Being Used as a Beard to Kill More Lions?

It doesn't seem to matter what state it is; hunters go into one game commission hearing after another spouting the same nonsense over and over again. It's like a mantra-kill more lions so we will have more deer to kill ourselves.

They don't listen to the experts from their own state wildlife agencies who claim that mountain lions are unlikely culprits when it comes to determining why deer populations are down.

They refuse to believe that loss of winter range to development of homes and subdivisions, more roads and a growing human population has a greater impact on wildlife than cougars.

All they see are reduced mule deer populations, and of course reduced opportunities to kill a deer themselves; and they blame it all on the lions...

Without Natural Predators,
Deer Destroy Forests

06/15/2011 - Unfortunately, now without any natural predators in the East, few wolves, and mountain lion populations falling, deer are back and at an estimated record high in many areas, with population estimates around twenty-million.

While deer hunters aren't complaining, the rest of us should be. Due to over-browsing by deer, America's forests are in trouble.

Whitetail deer crossing a stream. Whitetail deer crossing a stream.

When Balance is Not Enough

06/10/04 Mountain Lion Foundation Staff

What purpose do the mountain lion and other major predators serve? These animals are at the top of the food chain. With a shrug, we respond with words recalled form high school biology: Predators contribute to the balance of nature. But balance is not enough. An empty scale will balance.

Lion leaping on rocky background.