Puma

Puma (Felis) concolor

SUBFAMILY

Felinae

TAXONOMY

Felis concolor (Linnaeus, 1771), Brazil. Subspecies include eastern cougar (Puma c. cougar) and Florida cougar (Puma c. coryi).

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Cougar, mountain lion, catamount, panther; French: Puma; German: Puma, Silberlöwe; Spanish: Léon, léon colorado, léon de montaña.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Length 41-77 in (105-196 cm); tail 26-31 in (67-78 cm); weight 75-264 lb (34-120 kg). Slender body, large feet, and long hind legs. Silvery gray to tawny to reddish coat, unpat-terned. Faint horizontal lines sometimes on forelegs. Melanis-tic (black) forms common.

DISTRIBUTION

Southern Canada to Patagonia. Pumas have a very broad latitudinal range encompassing a diverse array of habitats from arid desert to tropical rainforest to cold coniferous forest.

HABITAT

Very diverse, from arid desert to tropical forest to cold coniferous forest, from sea level to 19,000 ft (5,800 m) in the Andes.

BEHAVIOR

Primarily nocturnal with activity peaks at dawn and dusk. Home range 13-410 mi2 (32-1,031 km2), with male range at least 100 mi2 (260 km2) and encompassing several slightly overlapping female ranges. Males make scrapes in prominent locations and along boundaries of home ranges. Population density varies from one to 17 per 100 mi2 (260 km2). Mountain-living pumas may follow ungulate prey to lower altitudes in summer. Pumas cannot roar, but have a distinctive call like a woman's scream, probably associated with courtship.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet very varied, from insects, birds and small rodents to capy-bara, porcupine, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and moose. Deer and other large ungulates are main prey in North America. Large kills often covered with soil and vegetation, and returned to later.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. Breed year round, but in north of range most births in warmer months. In the Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile, all known births took place between February and June. Gestation 90 to 96 days, litter one to six (usually two or three). Sexually mature at 24 months, but females do not breed until they have established a territory.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Classified as Lower Risk/Near Threatened by IUCN. Remaining eastern populations, including the Florida panther, are considered Critically Endangered. The Florida panther is down to a few dozen individuals and subject to inbreeding and severe genetic abnormality and pumas from Texas are being translocated to this state to increase the population's viability. Pumas have been eliminated from most of their former range in eastern North America by prey reduction, forest clearance and persecution. The spread of deer has led to pumas colonizing new areas such as the Great Basin Desert.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Pumas take calves and sheep and are persecuted by ranchers. Attacks on people, although infrequent, have increased as pumas now occur very close to settled areas in western North America. ♦

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