The Mountain Lion

Puma concolor

Author: Nicole Stempien

Image of: Puma concolor (cougar)


Taxonomy of the Mountain Lion (common names: Cougar, Puma, Panther, Mountain Lion, Catamount)


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Subfamily: Felinae

Genus: Puma

Species: Puma concolor

How Endangered? 

    The International Species Information Service lists 334 worldwide, with 119 being in the U.S. (Big Cat Rescue). The mountain lion is the most endangered mammal in the United States. It was registered as an endangered species on June 4, 1973. (FWS).

Physical Description

    Puma Concolor cougars (mountain lions) are large, slender cats. The males are larger than the female cats, sometimes the males can be up to twice as big. The coloration of these cats range from a yellowish brown to a grayish brown on upper body parts and a buff color on their stomach, with a throat and chest that are whitish. Also, they have a pink nose with black that extends to their lips. Their stripes on their mouth are black along with the area behind their ears, and the tip of the tail. The tail of the cougar is long and about one-third of the animal's actual length. However, their limbs are short and very muscular. Their feet are broad, with four digits on hind feet and five on their forefeet. Their mandible is short and powerfully constructed and inside they have massive carnassial teeth, compressed canines, and small incisors. Unlike bobcats and lynx, mountain lions have one more small premolar on each side of their upper jaw. Mountain lions may live up to 18 to 20 years in the wild, however, they may live slightly longer in captivity.


    This species had the most extensive distribution of all American terrestrial mammals. They are usually found in mountain regions and range from the coasts in North America, and from southern Argentina and Chile to southeast Alaska. However, these cats can also be found in: lowland tropical forests, grassland, dry brush country, swamps, and any areas with adequate cover and prey. Dense vegetation, caves, and rocky crevices provide shelter. (AWD).


    Mountain lions are carnivorous, therefore they eat many animals, including: moose, white-tailed and mule deer, squirrels, coyotes, and bobcats. They have a distinctive manner of hunting larger prey and break the prey's neck with a bite below the base of the skull.


    Mountain lions may be preyed upon by other mountain lions, bears, or wolves when they are young or sick.   

Why are mountain lions endangered?

    Unfortunately, over the years the population of the mountain lion has declined greatly because of hunting pressure and habitat destruction. The population in the eastern parts of the United States completely vanished. However, in recent years, populations have begun to expand into where humans are living, mostly in the western United States. This is not good for the species because they have been hit by cars or taken in as pets.

 Closely Related Species

    Puma Concolor coryi      

Importance for Humans: Negative and Positive

    Usually mountain lions generally avoid humans, sometimes they do attack. If they do attack it is most likely on small adults and children who are traveling at night time alone. Also, they do prey on domestic stock. At the same time, mountain lions have trophy value and are hunted for sport. Also, they are put into zoos and are used to control population of ungulates. (AWD).


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