Do you know that mountain lions have the biggest geographic vary of any non-human land mammals within the Western Hemisphere? It’s no shock this magnificent animal, native to the Americas, is known as many issues: puma, catamount, cougar, painter and panther. The reason being as a result of folks from varied nations, from Chile to Canada, have completely different names for it. The animal additionally has a large number of nicknames, such because the ghost of the Rockies, crimson tiger and mountain screamer, amongst others.
Meet Puma Concolor
It doesn’t matter what you name it, it’s nonetheless the identical wild cat, scientifically referred to as Puma concolor, which suggests a big feline resembling a lion with one strong shade. Nevertheless, these beauties are available a variety of shades, from rust and grayish to a tawny tan, and their infants are noticed. Darkish-colored markings are discovered on the ears, across the snout and on the tip of the tail.
These predators sport a strong physique with quick legs, upright ears, massive paws, sharp claws, placing steely eyes and an extended tail. Their hind legs are bigger and extra muscular than their entrance, giving them nice leaping energy.
A enjoyable truth about these massive cats is that they can not roar like lions. As a substitute, they hiss, purr or growl, like home cats!
Though the mountain lion is the one massive cat species with an growing inhabitants, its present numbers nonetheless don’t rival these of its previous. It continues to face threats as a result of prey depletion, human-wildlife battle and habitat loss from agricultural and concrete growth.
Hold studying to be taught extra about these fascinating mammals, the way to assist guarantee their survival, and the place to see them.
Wild Cats: What’s in a Identify?
As a result of the mountain lion has such a variety, spanning 28 nations and 16 states within the U.S., it goes by many names. Actually, it has so many names in English alone (round 40) that it holds the Guinness E-book of World Data distinction.
In North America, the feline is sometimes called mountain lion, cougar and panther, the final primarily in Florida. Spanish explorers in North and South America referred to it as gato monte (cat of the mountain) and leon (lion), which translated to mountain lion through the years.
The time period cougar could have come from an outdated phrase that the Portuguese picked up in Brazil: çuçuarana. Extra frequent references are the Colorado cougar and Yuma (Arizona) cougar. East of Mississippi, the animal can also be known as catamount, deer tiger and painter.
The phrase panther encompasses all cats that includes a solid-colored coat, and it’s utilized to huge cats, similar to mountain lions, in addition to jaguars and leopards which might be black in shade. The Florida panther, the state’s official animal, is a subspecies of the mountain lion. Whereas not black in shade, it options tawny-beige fur and a curved tail. It is likely one of the most endangered mammals on this planet.
The Incas of South America known as the animal puma of their language, and it has a symbolic significance representing energy, knowledge and intelligence. It’s nonetheless known as such within the nations that it calls dwelling.
Vary and The place to See Them
The mountain lion is an adaptable huge cat that may reside, as its title suggests, within the mountains. However it additionally thrives in deserts, forests, prairies and wetlands and is even seen within the fringes of cities.
Mountain lions are present in 14 western states. The Florida panther solely calls the Everglades Nationwide Park and Massive Cypress Nationwide Protect dwelling. There was a time the place these predators had been discovered throughout the South, from Louisiana to South Florida. Their numbers dwindled to as few as 25 to 30 by the early Nineties. In the present day, there are about 200 cats left in Florida’s swamplands. Fortunate vacationers could spot the endangered animal on a Pure Habitat Adventures Florida Nature Safari within the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, located within the Western Everglades.
Puma sightings are additionally attainable in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Colombia, amongst others. Visitors on Nat Hab’s Brazil journey can search for them within the Pantanal tropical wetland. In Patagonia, the puma is the biggest predator, and its vary spans from Arica to Magallanes on the tip of Chile. On Nat Hab’s Patagonia Wilderness & Wildlife Explorer journey, these animals could be noticed in Torres del Paine Nationwide Park.
Plainly geographic location determines the dimensions and shade of the animal. They’re smaller close to the equator and bigger across the poles. Males weigh anyplace from 115 to 220 kilos and females between 64 to 141 kilos. Mountain lions in colder climates are inclined to have longer and thicker hair in a silver-gray shade, whereas these in hotter and humid areas are reddish brown.
These sturdy felines are ambush predators who stalk their prey round daybreak and nightfall earlier than pouncing and killing it with their sturdy jaws. Just like the cheetah, the mountain lion has a versatile backbone that helps it transfer round obstacles and shortly change path when wanted. They’re carnivores and eat small mammals, similar to deer and guanaco (a camelid native to South America). Mountain lions additionally hunt sheep, feral pigs, raccoons, armadillos, squirrels, hares and even porcupines. Stronger ones will even go after elk and moose. The animal is understood to bury its meals to come back again and feast on later.
Mountain lions are elusive and don’t like confrontation with people. Encountering one on a hike or in your neighborhood is unlikely. Keep away from going out in mountain lion areas at daybreak and nightfall (once they hunt) to stop any encounters. When tenting, by no means go away meals out.
Mountain lions are listed as of least concern on the IUCN Purple Checklist; nevertheless, their inhabitants is on the decline. Within the U.S., the Florida panther is protected underneath the Endangered Species Act. Sadly, the Japanese cougar was declared extinct in 2018, with the final confirmed sighting in 1938.
Till the arrival of European settlers within the late 1800s, these felines roamed wild areas from Canada’s Yukon to the tip of South America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Quickly after, mountain lion habitat started to vanish, together with their prey. These stunning animals had been killed for his or her fur and to guard livestock. They had been thought of vermin, and bounty packages had been launched to regulate their numbers within the West within the Forties. This brought about the mountain lion inhabitants to lower drastically. In the present day, there are solely an estimated 30,000 cougars in North America.
Habitat loss poses the most important menace to mountain lions, together with fragmentation from freeways, overhunting of their prey and retaliatory assaults for preying on livestock. Pumas are territorial, solitary and want massive areas of habitat to outlive. With the rise in human inhabitants and concrete growth, conflicts are inevitable, and, with that, killings of those animals for his or her perceived threats. Closely traveled roads in locations like California are harmful for mountain lions that roam a number of miles a day looking for meals, and Florida panthers are sometimes victims of motorcar collisions.
Mountain lions are thought of sport species, with leisure looking allowed in 13 states. California and Florida are among the many states the place looking mountain lions is prohibited. In Florida, illegally killing a panther is punishable by as much as a yr in jail and carries a hefty advantageous. The federal government of Chile prohibited looking of pumas in 1980.
There’s a silver lining, as researchers started to seek out small pockets of cougar populations within the east of the Rocky Mountains within the Nineties, together with within the Midwest and as far east as Connecticut and Maine. In 1995, eight feminine cougars had been introduced from Texas to Florida to mate with males in an effort to scale back inbreeding and enhance the inhabitants. The hassle proved profitable and prevented the state animal from turning into extinct.
As apex predators, mountain lions play an vital position in sustaining the biodiversity and stability of the ecosystem. They maintain feral hog, deer and raccoon numbers down, guaranteeing they don’t develop uncontrolled for that habitat. In addition they assist curb ailments, similar to Lyme illness, which might be dangerous to people and home canines. These pure engineers deserve our respect and safety from threats throughout the Americas.