The Mountain Lion, also know as the Puma or Cougar, is a stalk-and-ambush predator that hunts a wide variety of prey. Its primary food is ungulates such as deer, particularly in the northern part of its range, but it hunts species as small as insects and rodents. It prefers habitats with dense underbrush for stalking, but it can live in open areas.Mountain Lions can be found in a vast range of Northern and Southern American geographies, including desert areas like the Grand Canyon National Park.
The Cougar is a slender and agile cat. Adults stand about 60 to 80 cm (2.0 to 2.7 ft) tall at the shoulders. The length of adult males is around 2.4 m (8 ft) long nose to tail, with overall ranges between 1.5 and 2.75 meters (5 and 9 feet) nose to tail suggested for the species in general.
Cougars have been hunted extensively throughout the Americas due to their habit of killing livestock. While not commonly known to attack humans, the Mountain Lion’s method of waiting in ambush and stalking its prey does pose a danger to small children and people who are running or jogging. There have been 108 confirmed attacks on humans with twenty fatalities in North America since 1890, fifty of the incidents having occurred since 1991.
Kills are generally estimated at around one large ungulate every two weeks. The period shrinks for females raising young, and may be as short as one kill every three days when cubs are nearly mature at around 15 months. The cat drags a kill to a preferred spot, covers it with brush, and returns to feed over a period of days. It is generally reported that the Cougar is a non-scavenger and will rarely consume prey it has not killed.
The Yellowstone National Park ecosystem provides a fruitful microcosm to study inter-predator interaction in North America. Of the three large predators, the massive Brown Bear appears dominant, often although not always able to drive both the Gray Wolf and the Cougar off their kills. One study found that Brown or Black Bears visited 24% of Cougar kills in Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, usurping just 10% of carcasses.
The grace and power of the Cougar have been widely admired in the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Inca city of Cusco is reported to have been designed in the shape of a Cougar, and the animal also gave its name to both Inca regions and people. The Moche people represented the puma often in their ceramics.
The Mountain Lion is widely held to be a symbol of strength and stealth. From combat helicopters and motor vehicles to athletic shoes, both “Cougar” and “Puma” are widely used as brand names.
Various sports teams have also adopted the names, remarkably the Argentina National Rugby Union Team. Many places, such as Cougar Mountain, are also named after their association with cougars.