Mountain Lions, cougars, pumas. No matter what you call this great cat, the fact is they are scary, fascinating, dangerous and growing in population numbers. This fact sheet is provided courtesy of Wildlife Damage Control. We did NOT create this brochure. It was written by Chris Bolgiano and designed by Nancy Sorrells etc. Produced by the Sierra Club. Wildlife Damage Control Presents this document for public information. We do not necessarily endorse all the information contained therein. We welcome your reasoned comments on this document. We have tried to maintain the integrity of the brochure. However, web page restrictions have forced us to modify the layout. We have endeavored to keep all the information however.
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Cougars (Puma concolor) are also known as mountain lions, pumas, panthers, painters, and catamounts. They lived throughout the East when European settlers arrived. Many Appalachian stories tell of panthers following people, dropping on people from tree limbs, covering a sleeping person with leaves, and screaming like a woman being murdered.
By 1950, intensive hunting and logging had apparently exterminated cougars. However, people in remote parts of the Appalachians continued to occasionally report them. Reports increased over time and by the 1990s, hard evidence began to accumulate.
In 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyzed a dropping found in Vermont as having cougar hair, presumably ingested during self-grooming.<I> A home video taped in 1992 in western Maryland showed a cougar walking through the woods.<2> Virginia Game Department personnel reported cougar sightings in southwest Virginia in 1995.<3> A plaster cast of a track in West Virginia in 1998 was confirmed as cougar by a wildlife expert in California .<4> Many credible sightings have also been made, but without supportive field evidence.
Some biologists and mountain people believe that a few native eastern cougars may have survived.<5>In addition, there is evidence that cougars obtained elsewhere as pets have escaped or been released .<6> State and federal wildlife authorities now agree that at least some cougars are living wild in the Appalachians, although the origin of these animals is uncertain.<7>
<1>1994, Letter from Bonnie C. Yates of Natl. Fish& Wildlife Forensics Ub.,Ashland, OR 97520.11994,
<2>Video from Leslie Johnston, Wildlife Div., MD Dept. of Natural Resources, Oakland, MD 21650.
<3> 1997, Report Mtn. Lion Sightings by John I Houbon Wildlife Biol., USDA, Blacksburg. VA 24060
<4> 1998 Dr. Lee Fitzhugh, Ext. Wildlife Spec., Univ. of CA. Davis, CA 95616-4514
<5> 1981 Robert Downing, "Current Status of the Cougar in the Southern Appalachians," in Proceedings of Nongame & End Wildlife Symposium Athens, GA.
<6> 1995, Chris Bolgiano, Mountain Lion: An Unnatural History of Pumas & People, Stackpole Books.
<7> 1998, Paul Nickerson, End. Species Program, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., NE Region, Hadley, MA 01035
Cougars have been studied intensively in the western U.S. and Florida. Below is a summary of the scientific knowledge that has been gathered:
SIZE & COLOR: Adult males average around 140 pounds and 7 feet from nose to tip of tail (tail is almost as long as the body); females, around 100 pounds and 6 feet. Color is brown to gray above and whitish below. Black cats are reported seen but have never been found in the East. Young are born with spots that fade during their first year. *Young, Stanley, and E.A. Goldman. The Puma, Mysterious American Cat, Washington, D.C.: American Wildlife Institute, 1946.
DIET: Deer are the main prey, but smaller animals such as raccoons, opossum, skunks, rabbits, beaver, coyotes, and rodents are also important, especially for younger cats not yet experienced in hunting. Adult cougars kill an average of about one deer every seven to ten days. All parts are consumed except for bones, hair and intestines.*Maehr,David. 'Social ecology of the Florida Panther," Natl. Geographic Research & Exploration 7(4):414-431, 1991.
POPULATION GROWTH: Biologists call cougars "self- regulating," meaning that they keep their own numbers low through a need for large individual territories, deadly fighting between males, and high death rates of young cougars. Even where prey is plentiful, cougar populations do not automatically increase. *Sweanor, Linda. Mountain lion social organization in a desert environment, Master's Thesis, Univ. of I D, 1990.
PREDATION: Cougars are ambush predators, rushing a short distance from behind cover at the rear or side of the prey. They bite the top or back of the neck to sever the spine. Cougars almost never land directly on prey from tree limbs or boulders because they couldn't get proper leverage for a neck bite. They often drag their kill some distance and usually scrape soil or forest leaves over it. Studies out West have documented that deer and elk numbers did not decline where cougars were present, and biologists no longer believe that cougars and other predators are the major factor in determining prey numbers. *Hanson, Kevin. Cougar. The American Lion, Northland Pub., 1992.
HOME RANGE: Depends on amount of prey, location of other cougars, and type of terrain. Size is unknown for the Appalachians, but would probably be between 25 and 125 square miles. A male's home range usually overlaps several females but usually not another male's; female home ranges may also overlap. *Anderson, Allen. Critical Review of Literature on Puma, CO Div. Of Wildlife Special Report 54, 1983.
HABITS: Usually solitary, except for mothers with young. Mating is brief and occurs when females are receptive, which begins at about two years of age and may take place at any time during the year. Young stay with their mother up to 2 years. Daughters often settle near their mother, but sons travel widely in search of new home ranges. It is during this time of travel that cougars are most likely to encounter humans. *Shaw, Harley Soul Among Lions, Johnson Books, 1989.
Cougars and Humans
Cougars are shy and avoid humans. Many people live entire lifetimes in cougar country out West and never see one. Cougars are known occasionally to follow people, apparently out Of curiosity. Fatal cougar attacks are extremely rare. a total of 13 people since 1890, compared to 18 people killed every year by dogs. *Beier, Paul."Cougar attacks on humans in the U.S. and Canada," Wildlife Soc. Bull. 19:403-412,1991
There are some simple ways to avoid problems if you encounter a cougar in the woods:
1. DON'T RUNAWAY. Running triggers a chase.
2. STAND TALL. Open your arms to make yourself big. Speak loudly but calmly. Keep eye contact. Back away slowly, taking care not to trip. Keep children close to you.
BANFF, Alberta, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Tells us that a Canadian woman was killed by a cougar while skiing in scenic Banff National Park. She was stalked by the predator then attacked from behind in what park officials described Wednesday as an extremely rare event. The cougar was healthy and weighed 130lbs.
1) WILD COUGAR CAPTURED IN OMAHA, NEBRASKA, 10/1/03
2) THE WILDLIFE SOCIETY OFFERS TO EVALUATE EVIDENCE OF COUGAR IN MICHIGAN, 9/23/03
3) COUGARS ARE IN MISSOURI, 9/23/03
4) SOUTH DAKOTA GAME, FISH & PARKS DEPARTMENT PROVIDES NEW DATA, 8/28/03
5) HUNTER'S REMOTE CAMERA CAPTURES PICTURE OF COUGAR IN ARKANSAS, 8/21/03
6) EXTENSIVE WINTER TRACK SURVEYS REVEAL NO EVIDENCE OF COUGARS IN MICHIGAN'S UP, 8/18/03
7) COUGAR KILLED MONDAY IN MISSOURI NOT DOMESTICATED, 8/14/03
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