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Species Description

Mountain Lion

Puma concolor


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae

Description

Tawny. Sides of the muzzle, backs of ears, and tip of tail are black. Belly fur is buff or nearly white in color. Young are spotted and have a ringed tail until six months of age. This is the largest of the wild cats in North America. Total length ranges from 2.1 - 2.7 m (7 - 9 ft), and weight ranges from 36.3 - 90.7 kg (80 - 200 lbs). The tail is usually 61 - 91.4 cm (2-3 ft) long. This is a large, unspotted, long-tailed cat.

Life Cycle

Mountain Lions begin breeding at 3 years of age and may breed at any season, with peaks in April and May. A litter of 1 - 6 kittens is born 82 - 98 days after mating. The female gives birth in a den located in a hollow log or crevice in a rock ledge. Kittens begin eating meat at 6 weeks of age but continue to suckle till 12 weeks of age. The female brings food to the den for several weeks, then brings the kittens to eat at her kills. After 2 months the den is abandoned, and kittens follow the female, but stay in temporary shelters while she hunts. At 6 months of age, the kittens follow the female while she hunts and remain with her for more than a year, dispersing by the time they are 2 years of age.

Natural History

The Mountain Lion requires a large territory for its individual home range (the area necessary to support the individual). Home range size may be from 13 - 62 square kilometers (5 - 24 square miles), depending on the abundance of food, habitat, and the individual's reproductive condition. Females with young require larger territories than females without young. Males and females may share overlapping home ranges, but individuals of the same sex do not. To avoid close contact with others, a Mountain Lion will leave scratch and scent marks to tell others that this territory is occupied. The Mountain Lion generally hunst for food at night. Deer make up 65 - 80% of its diet. It will also eat Wild Pigs, Raccoons, Armadillos, rodents, and rabbits. After killing a large animal such as a deer or pig, the Mountain Lion may cover it with leaves and other debris after the initial feeding, then come back later to finish eating its kill. The Mountain Lion may live for 15 - 18 years in the wild. Kittens are sometimes killed by other Mountain Lions. Adult deaths are generally caused by injuries from large prey, fighting with other Mountain Lions, and disease.

Range

Mountain Lion Region Map The Mountain Lion was once found throughout the United States in varied habitats from swamps to prairies, and mountains of the eastern and western states. Now it is restricted to wilderness areas of the American West and a remnant population in southern Florida. In Georgia it is possible that the Mountain Lion may occur in wilderness areas of the Blue Ridge mountains and within the Okefenokee Swamp.

Conservation Status

The Mountain Lion is a protected species in Georgia and is listed as an Endangered species. Most other states also protect this species from hunting and trapping.

Similar Species

No other wild cat species grows as large as the Mountain Lion and has such a long tail.