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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.