Cougars are large carnivores that were once widespread throughout the Western Hemisphere; ranging from Canada to southern Chile and from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. Other than humans, these big cats have the widest distribution of any native American mammal. They live from sea level to 14,800 feet in woodlands, swamps, tropical rain forests and arid deserts. While cougars have declined in some areas, in others they are increasing or maintaining their population.
Did you know?
- Mountain lion, panther, puma, catamount and screamer are all names for the cougar.
- Cougars tend to get larger in size the further they live from the equator.
- They can jump up to 20 feet in one bound.
- Cougars use their long tail as a rudder to steer them while they jump.
- Though they are often called mountain lions, they don't roar. Instead, they hiss, growl, purr, yowl and scream.
- "Concolor" in the cat's scientific name means "of uniform color throughout".
Cougar behavior and facts
- Cougars generally live in mountainous or remote, undisturbed areas. They're solitary except when females are in heat, or mothers are with their young.
- Deer is their primary food in many areas, but they will take advantage of any prey opportunity, including bighorn sheep, livestock, coyote, squirrels, rabbits, mice, insects and reptiles. They kill with one bite to the neck.
- After they eat, they'll cover a carcass with leaves or dirt and come back later to eat again.
- One study found that in southern California, on average, an adult cougar killed about 48 large and 58 small mammals per year and fed for an average of 2.9 days on a single large mammal.
- Cougars usually hunt at dawn or dusk but are active during any time of day, all year long. When they live near humans, their activity peaks after sunset.
From birth to death
- Cougars can breed year-round.
- Gestation: 90 to 96 days
- Litters: 1 to 6 cubs (usually 2 to 4). Cubs remain with their mother for a year or longer.
- Sexual maturity: 2 years
- Lifespan: 10 years in the wild; up to 20 years in captivity
- 75 to 250 pounds
- 3.5 to 6.5 feet long with a tail that is one-third their body length
- Males are usually larger than females.
- Depending upon the state, the cougar's status ranges from endangered, protected, and game animal to non-protected.
Cougars, the Oregon Zoo and you
The Oregon Zoo's cougars live in Cougar Crossing. In the zoo they enjoy a carnivorous diet of ground horsemeat and enrichment treats such as fish, mice, bones, hides and whole animal carcasses.
To learn more about cougars, you can visit The Cougar Network, a nonprofit organization that studies cougar-habitat relationships and the role of cougars in ecosystems.
Did you know?
Cougar tracks are sometimes found at Oxbow Regional Park and Cooper Mountain Nature Park. Find out how Metro is working with partners to protect natural areas and wildlife corridors for cougar, black bear and other large mammals.