Head/Body: 48-60 inches
Tail: 28 inches
TThe Cougar is also known as the Puma, Panther (in error), Catamount or Mountain Lion. In general the size and coloration of the cat varies greatly across its range, which stretches from the south west of Canada, down the western states of North America and throughout most western parts of the South American continent. In the north of its range, and in higher mountainous regions, the puma's coat is generally longer to provide additional protection against the extremes in temperature. The color of the fur varies from slate grey, through yellow buff to light reddish brown. The puma has a small, broad head with small rounded ears, and a powerful body with long hind legs, and tail which is tipped with black.
The puma can be found in varying habitats from the mountain forests up to around 16,000 feet, to lowland swamp and grasslands. In mountainous regions, where the cat follows its migrating prey as summer gives way to winter, the male puma can often patrol areas in excess of 100 square miles. They will overlap with the territories of several females, who maintain smaller ranges. It is common for the puma to mark the boundaries of its territory with tree scrapes and sprays of urine, which serve as markers and warnings to other pumas.
The puma hunts alone day or night, and will cache larger kills in dense undergrowth, returning to it over several days. Comparable in size to the Leopard, the puma is big enough to tackle larger prey such as domestic cattle and horses (earning a negative reputation with livestock farmers), as well as wild deer, sheep, rodents, rabbits, hare and beaver. While hunting, the puma uses the strength of its powerful hind legs to lunge at its prey with single running jumps.
Although numbers have been greatly reduced by hunting and trapping, generally the puma is not considered endangered. However, one sub-species, the Florida Panther (P.c. coryi), is found only in and around the state of Florida, and has become endangered. As few as 50 or so Florida Panthers now survive in the wild.
Once found throughout the southeastern United States, the range of the Florida Panther was drastically reduced during the 20th century. Currently, the existing population is unlikely to survive for more than 30 years without intervention. Protected areas have been established, but problems relating to the close proximity of human habitation are hampering conservation efforts. Road-kills along the major highways, hostility of private land owners to the panthers and eating of prey contaminated with pollutants and pesticides, all serve to aggravate an already critical situation.
The major problem confronting the Florida panther is one common to all the small and fragmented populations of wild cats, the lack of breeding success due mainly to abnormalities associated with in-breeding. The State government has not been idle in its efforts to help save the cat. The building of fences and underpasses along major state highways is one effort to reduce the incidences of road fatalities. To help strengthen future generations, a captive breeding program has been implemented with a number of young panthers being removed from the wild. These will be used to supplement the wild population in future years.