Mountain lions also go by various other names, such as cougar, puma, or catamount. You can find them throughout North and South America and they are the second-heaviest cat in the world. While mountain lions are very large, they are also closely related to domestic cats. However, do not let this family connection fool you; mountain lions can be deadly. While mountain lions are not as common in the United States as they once were, you may still run into one while out in the woods, so it’s important to know some basic facts about them and also how you can protect this vulnerable species.
In the Americas, mountain lions are one of the top predators, placed next to the gray wolf and different types of bears. Due to their size and skills, cougars have few natural predators, often only competing with the other apex predators in the Americas. Currently, the biggest threat to mountain lions are humans, due to poaching and habitat fragmentation.
Cougars are mainly solitary predators who spend most of their time alone, ruling over wide territories. These big cats are very reclusive and rarely approach people. Mountain lion attacks are rare and often occur because humans have begun encroaching on their territories or interfered with a hunt. Mountain lions typically hunt deer, though they will also hunt smaller animals if necessary and the opportunity arises. They’re nocturnal and do most of their hunting during dusk or dawn, which is made possible by their fantastic hearing and sight. This big cat is mostly muscle, particularly their powerful back legs, which allow them to jump around 40 feet when pouncing.
While mountains lions are not considered seriously threatened, their population is steadily decreasing. In some areas of the Americas, they run the risk of having their populations completely wiped out by farmers or other humans who do not want the cats around their homes. It’s understandable that people are upset if they feel threatened or have their animals hunted by cougars, but it’s also important to remember that we’re in their territory and to take steps to avoid conflict. In some states, hunting cougars is legal, but must also be carefully regulated. Recently, it’s been shown that these animals are moving further east in the United States as they search for new territory. It’s important to respect their space, but also take steps to keep yourself safe in order to peacefully coexist with them.
What you can do
One of the best steps you can take to protect mountain lions is educating yourself. Know where their habitats are and what signs to look out for that would indicate a mountain lion is nearby. Avoiding these animals as much as you can keeps them (and you) safe. You can also donate to and volunteer at wildlife refuges that protect cougars. If you encounter a cougar in the wild, back away as slowly as possible, make yourself look large, and make a lot of noise to intimidate them.