Because mountain lions are widely distributed, they have many common names such as puma, mountain lions, painters, and screamers.
Mountain lions are an extremely versatile predator. Two hundred years ago, they were found coast to coast in the United States
However, with the increasing loss of habitat and food, the mountain lion has disappeared from many of the areas in which it used to live. One sub-species that lives in the Everglades, known as the Florida panther, is seriously endangered.
The mountain lion is the second largest member of the cat family in the Western Hemisphere. (The largest is the jaguar, which is found only in South America.) Scientists classify mountain lions as small cats. Small cats purr, but can not roar, and big cats are able to roar, but can not purr.
The full-grown male stands up to 2 1/2 feet high at the shoulder and is 6 to 7 feet in length, with an additional 2 feet of tail. A mountain lion can weigh up to 200 pounds.
Mountain lions can leap to heights of 20 feet. They use their long tails to maintain their balance
The coat is light tan to grayish brown in color, with darker markings around the eyes and on the ears and tail. The mountain lion’s muzzle is white.
Food and Diet
Although the white-tailed deer is the mountain lion’s favorite food, the animal also preys on animals ranging from rodents and snowshoe hares up to elk and moose. The eastern mountain lion sometimes also catches fish.
A male moutain lion ranges over a large territory in a circular pattern, covering as much as 100 square miles. Within the male’s territory, two or more females generally establish their own, smaller territories.
Mountain lions stalk to within 30 feet of their prey before running at it at full speed.
If its prey is too large for a single meal, the mountain lion often covers the carcass with leaves and returns to it later.
Mountain Lions begin mating at about three years of age. After a gestation period of approximately three months, a litter of one to six cubs is born. Three or four is the most common size of a litter.
The cubs are spotted at birth, with ringed tails. The coat changes to its adult appearance when the young mountain lion is about a year old.
The mother nurses her cubs for two to three months, but they remain with her, learning how to hunt for up to two years.
In the wild, mountain lions typically live 10 to 12 years, but a life span of 20 years or more is common in captivity.
The Buttonwood Park Zoo’s mountain lions are found near its relative, the bobcat, in the area labeled Some Predators.