Approximately forty-five percent of Nevada is considered mountain lion habitat, distributed throughout the mountain ranges in the state.
Keep in mind that although cougars are physically capable of living in these places (based on geographical, vegetative and prey species characteristics), it does not mean they necessarily do. Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and intolerant communities can wipe out cougars from any area. For more information about where cougar populations actually live, check out our Science tab.
The state of Nevada encompasses 109,826 miles of land. Of this the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) estimates that approximately 50,000 square miles, roughly 45 percent of the state, is suitable mountain lion habitat.
Nevada's mountain lion habitat is distributed throughout all the mountain ranges in the state. According to NDOW, "The mountain lion's habitat ranges from desert, chaparral and badlands to sub-alpine mountain and tropical rain forests. In Nevada, mountain lions are most likely found in areas of pinion pine, juniper, mountain mahogany, ponderosa pine and mountain brush."
NDOW believes that overall, mountain lion population in Nevada is stable. Yet, it also acknowledges that "The increasing human population in Nevada has caused mountain lions to retreat to more isolated and rugged terrain. This human encroachment has also caused more human interactions with these otherwise secretive animals."
NDOW has put forth several estimates on the number of mountain lions residing in the state. Based on modeling that considers past mortality trends and recruitment rates from mark-recapture studies, NDOW's 2008 status report estimates somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 mountain lions statewide. This number is considerably lower than their 2003 estimate of 3,000 to 4,000 mountain lions and is disputed further by a 2004 article in the Reno Gazette Journal which cites a NDOW population estimate of only 1,500 mountain lions.
More recent research in the United States and peer-reviewed publications by leading cougar biologists indicate cougar density is roughly 1.7 resident adults per 100 square kilometers of habitat.
With about 50,000 square miles (130,000 square kilometers) of habitat, Nevada's cougar population is currently somewhere around 2,200 animals and likely declining due to increased trophy hunting and habitat loss.