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    Mountain Lion/ description of mountain lion/ Diet/ reproduction/ 27 names of mountain lion/ Subspecies of mountain lion/Distribution, Habitat/ Threat

     Mountain Lion 

    Mountain Lion

    Mountain lion also known as cougar, puma, painter, catamount, panther, red tiger, American lion and Mexican lion. Scientific name is Puma concolor and belongs to the family Felidae and subfamily FelinaeMountain lion is native to the Americas and the second largest cat in the New World. Mountain lion is the fourth largest cat species in the world, is a solitary animal with the most name, more than 40 names in English alone. It is also considered one of the big cats because of its strength, size and hunting skills. The other animals in this group are tigers, jaguars, cheetah, leopard. The scientist believe that the family Felidae had originated in Asia about 11,000,000 years ago.  

    The people of Latin America and most parts of Europe and the United States call it puma. the name "mountain lion" derived from the Spanish words  leon (lion) and gato monte (cat of the mountain). Georg Marcgrave, a German naturalist named it cuguacu ara in the 17th century but later cuguacu ara converted to cuguar by Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon. Later, the word cuguar was modified to "cougar". They are commonly known as mountain lions, in Southern California. 

    Once it was thought that 30 subspecies of mountain lion are exist in the world but after a long debate and DNA testing, the researchers recognized 6 groups. In 2005, based on research and DNA testing reports, 6 subspecies were finally identified by the authors of the "Mammal Species of the World". 

    1. P. c. concolor 

    1. P. c. couguar 

    1. P. c. anthonyi 

    1. P. c. puma 

    1. P. c. cabrerae 

    1. P. c. costaricensis


    Mountain Lion has created a Guinness record by acquiring 40 names. Some of the names are as follows - 

    1. cougar,  

    1. mountain lion,  

    1. Mexican lion,  

    1. painter,  

    1. deer tiger, 

    1.  puma,  

    1. mountain screamer,   

    1. catamount,   

    1. Silver lion,  

    1. Panther,  

    1. Devil cat,  

    1. Indian devil,   

    1. king cat,  

    1. mountain devil, 

    1.  Sneak cat,  

    1. red tiger,  

    1. Fire cat,  

    1. Deercat 

    1. Grey lion,  

    1. Plain lion ,  

    1. Caracajou 

    1. Catawampus,  

    1. Klandagi, 

    1. Long Tail,  

    1. Quinquajou,   

    1. Swamp lion 

    1. Ghost cat 

    Description and behavior 

    Mountain lion is classified as a small cat by the scientists. It has powerful slender body, small head, strong neck and jaws and erected ears, more like of a cheetah. The length of adult male mountain lion is about 3 feet to 5.5 feet and the tail is 23.5 feet to 33.5 feet which is one-third of their total length, helping them to balance. The weight of the male adult can be reach 220 pounds while the female is about 126 pounds. Male mountain lion is slightly larger than the female and weigh 40% to 60% more than females. The population living near the equator is small in size but the population near the poles is larger in size. The color of mountain lion is tawny just like the lion. They may be silvery grey or reddish in color. The color of Its belly and chest is white in color and its jaws and throat has lighter patches. The cubs have black spots on their tawny fur and have black rings on their tails and have blue eyes. 

    Mountain lion has larger eyes with more rod cells than cone cells in retinas, give them an excellent night vision. They do not see clearly in dark. Their eyes glow in the dark because they have a special light reflecting surface with special layer of reflective cells behind their retinas, called tapetum lucidum that helps them to see clearly in the dark. When the light enters the eyes, sometimes it does not hit the photoreceptor and the tapetum lucidum act as a mirror and reflects the light back. This not only helps the mountain lion to see at night but also creates the eye shine at night. The color of eyeshine of the mountain lion is greenish-gold. 

    The mountain lions have excellent sense of hearing which helps them to detect high frequency sounds. Their excellent vision and hearing help them to hunt the hidden prey. 

    Mountain lions have 3 types of teeth- carnassial teeth, canine teeth and incisors. The long and sharp carnassial teeth help to slice or shear the food; the thick and sharp canine teeth help them for puncturing and small and incisors teeth help them to chew the food. 

    Mountain lion has 5 claws on its front legs and 4 on its hind legs. These claws on their claws help to hold the prey. 

    Mountain lion has largest hindlegs and paws among the other cats in the Felidae family, which help them to leap up to 18 feet high from ground. Their running speed is about 40 to 50 mph and they are also great climbers. 

    The tongue of mountain lion is very rough because on the upper side of its tongue have tiny barbs called lingual papillae. Their rough tongue helps them to tear the flesh off the bones when the eat their prey. 

     Mountain lion has no specialized voice box or larynx and hyoid apparatus so they are not able to roar. They communicate by making many sounds like growls, mews, purr, hiss, snarl but the most unique is their scream. They scream during the mating season to attract the attention of female mountain lion. Adult mountain lion purrs are about 20 times louder than our pet cat. 

    Mountain lions mark and defend their territory by scratch pile claw raking. Male mountain lion made a scratch pile - the male mountain lion kick together some dirt, pine needles, dirt, or leaves and twigs into a scratch pile with its hind feet and defecate or urinate on the pile to mark and defend its territory. The male mountain lion also creates scratch marking on the tree which is called claw raking that indicates that the area is already occupied. 

    The mountain lions are solitary and shy animals, rarely seen by humans. Mountain lion can live up to 13 years in the wild but in captivity, it can live up to 21 years. 

    Mountain Lion Diet 

    Mountain lion is a carnivore. These stealthy predators hunt their prey efficiently and quickly. They are active in night and kill any animals from larger ungulates to smaller insects. The population live in North America, prefer to hunt various deer species such as elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, bull moose; without these animals, the mountain lions also kill horses, caribou, coyotes, prong hom fallow deer, bighorn etc. The populations live in Florida, hunt hogs and armadillos. The mountain lions also eat raccoons, black-tail deer, California sea lion, North American river otters. American mink. The population lives in Central and South America eat deer, capybara, but the mountain lions also eat smaller animals like hares, porcupines, guanaco, vicuna, beavers, mice, rhea. The birds are also hunt by the mountain lions such as wild turkey. The population who lives in South America also hunted eat bird and small reptiles. The populations live in Monte Leon National Park in Patagonia hunt and eat Penguins.  

    The mountain lion is an opportunistic hunter. They hide into the bush, trees and other covered spots. When they see a prey, they wait for hours and stalks its prey. They creep close to the prey and stalks the prey. Mountain lions hunt alone. They kill the prey by breaking its neck or they grasp the prey’s throat for suffocating it. After killing, the stomach of the dead animal is the easiest point of entry to access the most nutritious parts of the body such as kidneys, heart and liver of the prey. 

    When the mountain lions attack a bigger animal like horses or elk, they kill the prey by breaking its neck or grasp the prey’s throat for suffocates it. After killing, mountain lions drag the animal to an undisturbed area. Once they have their full meal, they cover the remaining parts of the prey with leaves or grass to protect it from being eaten by any other animals. In this way they save the food for another days.  

    The population of deer is decline because mountain lions kill the deer faster but the reproduction of the deer is slower. Where the mountain lion population is high, they kill a large number of livestock in short time. In western states, 20% of total livestock were hunted by the mountain lions annually. 

    Mountain lions do not attack humans but from 1890 to 1990, 53 attacks of mountain lions were recorded in Canada and US and 10 humans had died. 

    A mountain lion can eat 20 to 30 pounds of meat in a day and come back to eat the remains for up to 10 days. They kill larger animals every two weeks. 

    Reproduction of Mountain Lion 

    Mountain Lion

    Mountain lions are solitary animals but the both male and female stay together only for 3 to 10 days during their mating. Their mating season starts from December and can be end in March, although they have no specific mating season. As mountain lions are polygamous, means can mate with many others. When the females are 2 to 3 years old, they reach sexual maturity. During the breeding period, the females who are estrous, frequently rub their body against any objects and also use scent and scrapes and their estrous lasts up to 9 days. The highest frequency of copulation can occur nine times within an hour.  

    After 90 to 96 days of gestation period, female mountain lion gives birth 1 to 6 cubs or kittens, commonly 2 kittens. The female mountain lion makes the dense in a safe and inaccessible place because mortality of the cubs is due to the human activities and the predators including unfamiliar male mountain lions. Mother mountain lion makes the den under uprooted trees, in thick bush, rock pile or hollow trees and solely responsible for rearing her cubs. She changes the den site every few weeks and take her cubs in the new den to protect the cubs from the predators. The weight of the newborn cub is 225gm to 450gm. When the cubs are born, they are blind but after 10 days of their birth, the cubs open their eyes and their ear pinnae also unfolds. The color of the cubs is tawny with black spots on their body. When they reach the age of 2 years, the black spots on their body slowly faded and eventually disappeared. After birth the cubs are fully depended on their mother’s milk and when they reach 40 days of age, the cubs are fully weaned. The mother mountain lion nurses and care the cubs until they reach 1 year of age. She protects the young cubs and trained them to hunting.  The cubs start to eat meat at the age of 3 to 4 months. When the young cubs are 6 months of age, they start to hunt smaller animals on their own. The juveniles stay about 15 to 26 months with their mother and then disperse to other areas. Male can disperse up to 275km but the females disperse up to 140km. In this stage, the young mountain lions who travel farther from the maternal range, often killed by the other mountain lions due to conflicts. 

    Mountain Lions Habitat and Distribution

    Mountain Lion

    Mountain lion is the most widespread wild land animal in the Americas. They can be found from Canadian Yukon Territory to the southern part of Andean Mountain. As the mountain lion is native to Central America, North and South Americas, they are found in the most American habitats like deserts, mountains, wetlands, forests, oak woodlands and also in open areas with little vegetation. In present days, mountain lions live in 16 western states including British Columbia, Alaska, Alberta province of Canada, province of Saskatchewan in Canada and Yukon Territory in Canada. Now they live in Washington, Nevada, California, Oregon, Utah, Texas, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota and a small endangered population live in Florida. Mountain lions are also seen roaming the northeastern states. 

    Threat to Mountain Lions 

    Mountain lion population is threatened due to habitat loss, over hunting or poaching, human activities, human perecution, deforestation, habitat fragmentation. By the early 18th century, their population eradicated from the entire eastern part of North America due to these threats. Their number reduced one-third across North America. Today mountain lions are hunted for sports in 13 states including Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Texas. Only California has classified the mountain lion as a "specially protected mammal" and has given the species the highest protection by banning game hunting.  

    Mountain lion numbers are decrease due to other threats such as trapping, poaching, environmental pollution, disease, declines in prey populations and cougar-vehicle collisions. 

    The mountain lions of Central and South America are commonly known as Pumas. In Latin America 40% of puma habitat is lost due to urban expansion. Pumas are considered near threatened in Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Columbia. 

    If hunters kill a mother mountain lion, its cubs are orphaned and killed by other predators or die of starvation. 

    The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the mountain lion as ‘Least Concern’ since 2008.

    What Do Mountain Lions Eat?

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