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Jump to: navigation, searchThis article is about the large cat species. For other uses, see Cougar (disambiguation).{| class="infobox biota" style="text-align: left; width: 200px"

! colspan="2" style="text-align: center; background-color: #d3d3a4"|Cougar[1] Fossil range: Middle Pleistocene to Recent |- | colspan="2" style="text-align: center"| |- style="text-align: center; background-color: #d3d3a4" ! colspan="2"|Conservation status |- | colspan="2"| Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)[2] |- ! colspan="2" style="text-align: center; background-color: #d3d3a4"|Scientific classification |- |Kingdom: |Animalia |- |Phylum: |Chordata |- |Class: |Mammalia |- |Order: |Carnivora |- |Family: |Felidae |- |Genus: |Puma |- |Species: |P. concolor |- ! colspan="2" style="text-align: center; background-color: #d3d3a4"|Binomial name |- | colspan="2" style="text-align: center"|Puma concolor (Linnaeus, 1771) |- | colspan="2" style="text-align: center"| |- | colspan="2" style="text-align: center; font-size: 88%"|Cougar range |} The cougar (Puma concolor), also known as puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther, depending on the region, is a mammal of the family Felidae, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere,[3] extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in every major American habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in the American continents after the jaguar. Although large, the cougar is most closely related to smaller felines.

A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates such as deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses and sheep, particularly in the northern part of its range. It will also hunt species as small as insects and rodents. This cat prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but it can also live in open areas. The cougar is territorial and persists at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with other predators such as the jaguar, grey wolf, American Black Bear, and the grizzly bear. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids people. Attacks on humans remain rare, despite a recent increase in frequency.[4]

Due to excessive hunting following the European colonization of the Americas, and the continuing human development of cougar habitat, populations have dropped in most parts of its historical range. In particular, the cougar was extirpated in eastern North America, except for an isolated sub-population in Florida; there are many sightings that claim the animal is recolonizing parts of its former eastern territory, such as Maine and northern Michigan [5][6] where there have been recent sightings. In North America, the cougar is native to Western Canada, Washington, Oregon and Northern California. Oregon alone is home to more than 5,000 cougars, with the highest densities in the Blue Mountains in the northeastern part of the state and in the southwestern Cascade Mountains. Their primarily food source here is deer, but they will also consume elk, raccoons, bighorn sheep, and other mammals and birds.

Cougars are territorial animals and maintain home ranges of up to 100 miles. Most active at dawn and dusk, they are lone hunters. They are generally solitary animals, except for mothers who remain with kittens for about two years. While actual cougar sightings have increased, coyotes, bobcats, and dogs are often mistaken for cougars. A cougar can be identified by its large size, cat-like appearance, consistent tan or tawny body color, and long tail. An adult cougar's tail is nearly three feet long and can be a third to a half of its total length. Cougar tracks can be differentiated from dog tracks by paying attention to detail. The cougar has recently made a comeback in the state of Wyoming, where it presently has the largest population in North America[citation needed].agraph of your article here.

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Naming and etymologyEdit

With its vast range, the cougar has dozens of names and various references in the mythology of the indigenous Americans and in contemporary culture. The cougar has numerous names in English, of which puma and mountain lion are popular. Other names include catamount, panther, mountain screamer and painter. Lexicographers regard painter as a primarily upper-Southern U.S. regional variant on "panther",[7] but a folk etymology, fancying a resemblance between the typically dark tip of its tail and a paintbrush dipped in dark paint, has some currency.

The cougar holds the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of names, presumably due to its wide distribution across North and South America. It has over 40 names in English alone.[8]

"Cougar" may be borrowed from the Portuguese çuçuarana, via French; the term was originally derived from the Tupi language. A current form in Brazil is suçuarana. It may also be borrowed from the Guaraní language term guaçu ara or guazu ara. "Puma" comes, via Spanish, from the Quechua language.[9][10][11] the first section of your article here.

biology and behaviorEdit

Physical characteristicsEdit

Cougars are slender and agile cats. Adults stand about 60 to 76 centimeters (2.0 to 2.5 ft) tall at the shoulders. The length of adult males is around 2.4 meters (8 ft) long nose to tail, with overall ranges between 1.5 and 2.75 m (5 and 9 ft) nose to tail suggested for the species in general.[18][19] Males typically weigh 53 to 90 kilograms (115 to 198 pounds), averaging 62 kg (137 lb). In rare cases, some may reach over 120 kg (264 lb). Females typically weigh between 29 and 64 kg (64 and 141 lb), averaging 42 kg (93 lb).[20][21][22] Cougar size is smallest close to the equator, and larger towards the poles.[3] Although cougars resemble the domestic cat, they are about the same size as an adult human.The head of the cat is round and the ears erect. Its powerful forequarters, neck, and jaw serve to grasp and hold large prey. It has five retractable claws on its forepaws (one a dewclaw) and four on its hind paws. The larger front feet and claws are adaptations to clutching prey.[23]

Cougars can be almost as large as jaguars, but are less muscular and not as powerful; where their ranges overlap, the cougar tends to be smaller than average. The cougar is on average as heavy as the leopard. Despite its size, it is not typically classified among the "big cats," as it cannot roar, lacking the specialized larynx and hyoid apparatus of Panthera.[24] Like domestic cats, cougars vocalize low-pitched hisses, growls, and purrs, as well as chirps and whistles. They are well known for their screams, as referenced in some of their common names, although these screams are often misinterpreted to be the calls of other animals.[25] Rear paw of a cougar.Cougar coloring is plain (hence the Latin concolor) but can vary greatly between individuals and even between siblings. The coat is typically tawny, but ranges to silvery-grey or reddish, with lighter patches on the under body including the jaws, chin, and throat. Infants are spotted and born with blue eyes and rings on their tails;[20] juveniles are pale, and dark spots remain on their flanks.[19] Despite anecdotes to the contrary, all-black coloring (melanism) has never been documented in cougars.[26] The term "black panther" is used colloquially to refer to melanistic individuals of other species, particularly jaguars and leopards.[27]

Cougars have large paws and proportionally the largest hind legs in the cat family.[20] This physique allows it great leaping and short-sprint ability. An exceptional vertical leap of 5.4 m (18 ft) is reported for the cougar.[28] Horizontal jumping capability from standing position is suggested anywhere from 6 to 12 m (20 to 40 ft). The cougar can run as fast as 55 to 72 km/h (35 to 45 mi/h),[29] but is best adapted for short, powerful sprints rather than long chases. It is adept at climbing, which allows it to evade canine competitors. Although it is not strongly associated with water, it can swim.[30]

Hunting and dietEdit

A successful generalist predator, the cougar will eat any animal it can catch, from insects to large ungulates (over 500 kg). Like all cats, it is an obligate carnivore, feeding only on meat. The Mean weight of vertebrate prey (MWVP) was positively correlated (r=0.875) with puma body weight and inversely correlated (r=-0.836) with food niche breadth in all America. In general, MWVP was lower in areas closer to the Equator.[3] Its most important prey species are various deer species, particularly in North America; mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and even large moose are taken by the cat. Other species such as Bighorn Sheep, wild horses of Arizona, domestic horses, and domestic livestock such as cattle and sheep are also primary food bases in many areas.[31] A survey of North America research found 68% of prey items were ungulates, especially deer. Only the Florida Panther showed variation, often preferring feral hogs and armadillos.[3] Shown eating. Cougars are ambush predators, feeding mostly on deer and other mammals.Investigation in Yellowstone National Park showed that elk, followed by mule deer, were the cougar's primary targets; the prey base is shared with the park's gray wolves, with whom the cougar competes for resources.[32] Another study on winter kills (November–April) in Alberta showed that ungulates accounted for greater than 99% of the cougar diet. Learned, individual prey recognition was observed, as some cougars rarely killed bighorn sheep, while others relied heavily on the species.[33]

In the Central and South American cougar range, the ratio of deer in the diet declines. Small to mid-size mammals are preferred, including large rodents such as the capybara. Ungulates accounted for only 35% of prey items in one survey, approximately half that of North America. Competition with the larger jaguar has been suggested for the decline in the size of prey items.[3] Other listed prey species of the cougar include mice, porcupine, and hares. Birds and small reptiles are sometimes preyed upon in the south, but this is rarely recorded in North America.[3] Not all of their prey is listed here due to their large range.

Though capable of sprinting, the cougar is typically an ambush predator. It stalks through brush and trees, across ledges, or other covered spots, before delivering a powerful leap onto the back of its prey and a suffocating neck bite. The cougar is capable of breaking the neck of some of its smaller prey with a strong bite and momentum bearing the animal to the ground.[23]

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.[20] 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; but deer carcasses left exposed for study were scavenged by cougars in California, suggesting more opportunistic behavior.[34]

Reproduction and lifecycleEdit

Females reach sexual maturity between one-and-a-half to three years of age. They typically average one litter every two to three years throughout their reproductive life,[35] though the period can be as short as one year.[20] Females are in estrus for approximately 8 days of a 23-day cycle; the gestation period is approximately 91 days.[20] Females are sometimes reported as monogamous,[29] but this is uncertain and polygyny may be more common.[36] Copulation is brief but frequent. Cougar kittens.Only females are involved in parenting. Female cougars are fiercely protective of their kittens, and have been seen to successfully fight off animals as large as grizzly bears in their defense. Litter size is between one and six kittens; typically two or three. Caves and other alcoves that offer protection are used as litter dens. Born blind, kittens are completely dependent on their mother at first, and begin to be weaned at around three months of age. As they grow, they begin to go out on forays with their mother, first visiting kill sites, and after six months beginning to hunt small prey on their own.[35] Kitten survival rates are just over one per litter.[20]

Young adults leave their mother to attempt to establish their own territory at around two years of age and sometimes earlier; males tend to leave sooner. One study has shown high morbidity amongst cougars that travel farthest from the maternal range, often due to conflicts with other cougars (intraspecific competition).[35] Research in New Mexico has shown that "males dispersed significantly farther than females, were more likely to traverse large expanses of non-cougar habitat, and were probably most responsible for nuclear gene flow between habitat patches."[37]

Life expectancy in the wild is reported at between 8 to 13 years, and probably averages 8 to 10; a female of at least 18 years was reported killed by hunters on Vancouver Island.[20] Cougars may live as long as 20 years in captivity. One male North American cougar, named Scratch, was two months short of his 30th birthday when he died in 2007.[38] Causes of death in the wild include disability and disease, competition with other cougars, starvation, accidents, and, where allowed, human hunting. Feline immunodeficiency virus, an endemic AIDS-like disease in cats, is well-adapted to the cougar.[39]

Social structure and home rangeEdit

Like almost all cats, the cougar is a solitary animal. Only mothers and kittens live in groups, with adults meeting only to mate. It is secretive and crepuscular, being most active around dawn and dusk.

Estimates of territory sizes vary greatly. Canadian Geographic reports large male territories of 150 to 1000 square kilometers (58 to 386 sq mi) with female ranges half the size.[29] Other research suggests a much smaller lower limit of 25 km2 (10 sq mi) but an even greater upper limit of 1300 km2 (500 sq mi) for males.[35] In the United States, very large ranges have been reported in Texas and the Black Hills of the northern Great Plains, in excess of 775 km2 (300 sq mi).[40] Male ranges may include or overlap with those of females but, at least where studied, not with those of other males, which serves to reduce conflict between cougars. Ranges of females may overlap slightly with each other. Scrape marks, urine, and feces are used to mark territory and attract mates. Males may scrape together a small pile of leaves and grasses and then urinate on it as a way of marking territory.[30]

Home range sizes and overall cougar abundance depend on terrain, vegetation, and prey abundance.[35] One female adjacent to the San Andres Mountains, for instance, was found with a large range of 215 km2 (83 sq mi), necessitated by poor prey abundance.[37] Research has shown cougar abundances from 0.5 animals to as much as 7 (in one study in South America) per 100 km2 (38 sq mi).[20]

Because males disperse further than females and compete more directly for mates and territory, they are most likely to be involved in conflict. Where a sub-adult fails to leave his maternal range, for example, he may be killed by his father.[40] When males encounter each other, they hiss, spit, and may engage in violent conflict if neither backs down.[36] Hunting or relocation of the cougar may increase aggressive encounters by disrupting territories and bringing young, transient animals into conflict with established individuals.[41]Write the second section of your article here.

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