Cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, are the second largest big cats in the Americas, the largest being the jaguar. They also have the largest range of any cat in the Western Hemisphere, from the Yukon all the way down to the Andes, as well as the largest range of any wild animal in the Americas. If you live in the Americas, chances are cougars could live in your area.
European settlers were confused about the lack of manes on the cougars, which they thought to be the same as lions. The Native Americans told them that the males had manes but lived far away in the mountains where nobody could get to them, which inspired the name “mountain lion”, even though they aren’t normally found living in the mountains.
It is most common for there to be one litter of cubs born every two to three years, although once a year can sometimes happen. Only the mother is involved in raising the cubs. The mother finds a cave or a den to keep her babies safe in, and the little ones need all the protection they can get. Born blind, the cubs are totally dependent on their mother for the first three months of their lives. At that point, they begin to get weaned off of the mother’s milk and begin to travel with their mother to watch her hunt and eat prey. At around six months, they start learning how to hunt on their own. The cubs stay with their mother for two years, at which point they are totally independent.
Mountain lions are solitary animals, as are many cats. Aside from mother and cub groups, they rarely meet or form communities. However, they are sometimes scavengers and have no problem sharing food with one another. If many cats live in one area, as determined by the presence of a male cougar in a territory, they may communicate and rarely fight. At least, the females typically fight. Conflict can sometimes arise between males with overlapping territories, or between a young cougar and his father, if the son doesn’t leave soon enough after he’s grown. Some ranges are very large, but others are small, and the size of the habitat is entirely determined by the abundance of prey in the area.
Though not always the apex predator in the region, no other animals prey on cougars. Sometimes they will be scared away from their kills by bears or wolves, but no conflict arises between these species outside of scavenging. Cougars have been at the top of the food chain and one of the largest predators in South America for as long as we have a record.
Do you have mountain lions where you live? They’re know by many names and, if you do live nearby, what is your name for them? Thank you for reading, and be sure to come back here every Tuesday and Friday for a new blog post. Until next time, goodbye!
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