One of my favorite large cats is the Puma (Puma concolor), also known as Cougar, Mountain Lion and Mountain Cat. These cats hold, a mystique, grace a beauty that has always fascinated me. The most common named referring to these cats is Cougar, though personally like Puma!
They are a member of the Felidae family which consists of smaller cats even though they are not small cats. These cats are native to the Americas. These cats hold the Guinness record for an animal with the largest number of names.
They are solitary cats and have the largest range of any large terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. This range extends from the Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. The Jaguar is the heaviest cat in the Western Hemisphere followed by the Puma. Although these cats are quite large, they are closely related to smaller felines and closer, genetically, to the domestic cat followed by lions.
Due to their excellent stalking and ambush abilities, the Puma has a wide variety of prey. Their primary source of food include deer, elk, moose and bighorn sheep. They will also prey on domestic animals such as horses, cattle and sheep, particularly in the northern ranges. They will also eat insects and rodents when in need.
These cats prefer dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking but can live in open areas and plains. Even though these are large cats, they do not hold dominance over other predators such as Jaguars, Grey Wolves, American Black Bears and the Grizzly Bear.
As a general rule, Pumas are reclusive and will avoid human contact at all costs. There have rare cases of people being attacked by Pumas and is usually caused by humans moving into their habitat and removing the food sources.
Due to excessive hunting and continued human development, the populations has drastically dropped. These wonderful cats no longer exist in Eastern North America as of the 20th century. The only exception being the state of Florida and that is in very small population.
Pumas are very agile and slender cats and are the fourth largest of cats. Adults stand approximately 24 to 35 inches (60 – 90 cm) tall at the shoulders. The Male is approximately 7.9 feet (2.4 m) long from nose to tail, weighing 115 to 220 pounds ( 53 to 100 kg). The Females are approximately 4.9 to 9.0 feet (1.5 to 2.75 m) from nose to tail, weighing 64 to 141 pounds (29 to 64 kg).
Even though Pumas resemble the domestic cat they are approximately the same size as a human. Their heads are round and their ears are erect. They have very powerful forequarters, jaws and necks. They have 5 retractable claws on their front paws and 4 on the hind paws. These cats have very large paws and the largest hind legs in the cat family.
Even though they are almost as large as the Jaguar, they are not as muscular or as powerfully built. They are, on average, larger than most cats categorized in the “Big Cats” family, with the exception of the Lions and Tigers. The reason they are not classified among the “Big Cats”, is because they cannot roar! Pumas are usually silent with little to no communication through vocalization, with the exception of Mother to Offspring.
However, they do have a large range of sounds from hissing, growling, purring, chirps and whistles. They are also well known for what is referred to as a screaming sound.
Although the basic color of these cats are plain beige it can have a varying range. Their coats a typically tawny, ranging from silver/grey to red. The infants are born spotted, they are also born blind with blue eyes and in many cases retain their beautiful blue eyes..
Only the Females are involved in parenting and are fiercely protective of her young. She can successfully fight off animals as large as Grizzly bears in her cubs defense. She can have one to 6 cubs in a litter but typically two or three. After 6 months the cubs will start hunting small prey on their own. Around 2 years of age, the young adults will leave their mother.
The average life expectancy in the wild of these cats is between 8 and 13 years, although there was a report of a female that lived to be 18 years of age and was killed by a hunter.
A Male Puma named Scratch died two months before his 30th birthday in 2007.
Causes of death among these cats are disability, disease, starvation and (where allowed) human hunting. In many states these cats are on the endangered list while in others they are not. With the loss of habitat where humans are moving in, the rate of starvation is on an upward climb.
It would be very sad if we were to lose one of the most beautiful, agile felines due to hunting, taking over their limited habitats and out of fear. We, in the Americas, have very few large cats; these beautiful creatures need our protection.
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