You’ve seen them in the movies. You’ve probably read stories about mountain lions attacking humans. So it feels like cougars are everywhere. However, there are far fewer mountain lions than people think. The chances of you encountering them are slim, especially since they are a stealthy predator. But if so, where do you see them? In the following articles, we explore the areas where mountain lions live.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about these impressive big cat habitats.
What is a Mountain Lion?
Before diving into the habitat of mountain lions, it helps to understand what they really are.These big cats are officially scientifically classified mammals cougar. Depending on which part of the country (or world) you live in, you may know them by pumas, panthers, panthers, or cougars.
Their large bodies have mostly tan or beige fur. However, they do have a white/gray chest and white/gray belly. Typically, they have black spots on the tip of their tails, around their eyes, around the edges of their ears, and on their muzzles.
Their size varies depending on which part of the world they live in. Generally, however, females are smaller, weighing 64 to 141 pounds. Larger males typically weigh between 115 and 220 pounds.
Mountain lions are carnivores. Their favorite prey are elk and deer. However, they occasionally hunt smaller animals such as rabbits or coyotes. They are the so-called umbrella species. Because of their need for vast territories, conservation of mountain lions leads to conservation of other wildlife species and plant life.
They are a solitary species that mostly come together for mating or when females are raising young.
mountain lion habitat
If an area has plenty of prey, you’re likely to find cougars there. They discriminate less against natural habitats than if they live in food-rich areas. Therefore, you may spot mountain lions in deserts, mountains, forests, and wetlands. You might spot a mountain lion at sea level. Or closer to the tree line, as they often roam at elevations as high as 10,000 feet.
Mountain lions aren’t as plentiful in the wild as they used to be. This is largely due to the destruction of their natural habitat. As the population grew, urban areas began encroaching on mountain lion habitat.
Today, American cougars prefer mountainous or rocky terrain. They like areas that have some bushes or spots for them to hide in. And their territory is quite large. An adult female’s territory is usually between 20 and 60 square miles. But males swim farther. They cover a territory of nearly 100 square miles.
Where do cougars live around the world?
This big cat is native to Central, South and North America. No other mammal living in the Americas has such a large range. You can find mountain lions as far north as the Yukon. South to the Strait of Magellan.
Part of the reason they have such a wide range is that they are solitary animals. And they are very territorial.
american mountain lion
Due to hunting and habitat loss in the early 1900s, mountain lions are not as abundant as they once were. According to the Mountain Lion Foundation, they are now only found in 15 states. However, there are also some mountain lions east of the Rocky Mountains. Conservationists are working hard to make sure they survive.
Florida panther (cougar) is the largest puma population in the eastern United States. It is on the verge of extinction.
According to The Nature Conservancy, there are only about 50,000 mountain lions left in the world. While the United States has an estimated 30,000 mountain lions, the rest of the Americas only has about 20,000.
The majestic feline is officially on Canada’s endangered species list.
In the south, the South American puma (Puma) is home to Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
Additionally, pumas are found throughout Central America. You’ll find them in Honduras, Panama, Belize, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
historical range of cougars
Throughout most of history, the Americas have teamed up with the Cougars. Many subspecies are found in all regions of North and South America. However, as the settlers began to expand, they feared for the safety of their livestock and began hunting them. Cougars are rapidly becoming extinct due to overhunting.
Conservationists have worked hard to rebuild the mountain lion population. Thanks to their efforts, there are now approximately 30,000 mountain lions living across the United States. But while mountain lion populations are slowly recovering, they remain significantly below their estimated historical levels.
Unfortunately, not all cougars survived the purges of the late 1800s and early 1900s. A subspecies of the eastern cougar is extinct. There are only about 160 animals left in the wild in Florida.
How to Avoid Being Attacked by a Mountain Lion
Mountain lion attacks on people are relatively rare. However, the number of attacks has increased in recent years as more people venture out onto the trails and into the wilderness. Additionally, these attacks often make newspaper headlines.
Although rare, exercise caution when outdoors in cougar territory.
The U.S. Forest Service (as well as state and local wildlife officials) regularly issue notifications of mountain lion sightings. Be on the lookout and stay up-to-date with local mountain lion activity before venturing into wilderness areas. Of course, the best precaution is to avoid areas with recent sightings.
However, if you do choose to take the plunge, there are steps you can take. Go hiking with a companion and keep the little ones close to you. Animals tend to be attracted to smaller humans. If you see a cougar, pick up any smaller children to help them appear larger. Avoid hiking at dusk or dawn, as these are prime hunting times.
If you see one, don’t go near it. Also, don’t run away. Running triggers the predatory instincts of large mammals. Instead of crouching, lift your arms up to make them look as big as possible. And, at worst, if attacked, you fight back with all your might.
- 10 Incredible Cougar Facts
- See the incredible face-off between a cougar and a bear
- Cougar Poo: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know
- Do Mountain Lions Hibernate? How do they spend the winter?
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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