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Home -> Kingdom Animalia -> Phylum Chordata -> Subphylum Vertebrata -> Class Mammalia -> Order Carnivora -> Suborder Feliformia -> Family Felidae -> Subfamily Felinae -> Species Puma concolor

Puma concolor
(Also: mountain lion; puma)

2009/05/31 04:55:16.550 GMT-4

By Tanya Dewey

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Puma
Species: Puma concolor
Members of this Species

Geographic Range

Historically, mountain lions had the most extensive distribution of all American terrestrial mammals. They ranged from coast to coast in North America, and from southern Argentina and Chile to southeastern Alaska. Extermination efforts, hunting pressure, and habitat destruction have restricted their range to relatively mountainous, unpopulated areas throughout much of their range. Populations in eastern North America were entirely exterminated, except for a small population of Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryi). In recent years populations have begun to expand into areas of human habitation, especially in the western United States. Mountain lions are now fairly common in suburban areas of California and have recently been sighted as far east as urban Kansas City, Missouri, where several have been hit by cars. Mountain lion sightings in eastern North America, outside of southern Florida, are still more likely to be escaped or abandoned "pet" mountain lions or other large cats.

Biogeographic Regions:
nearctic (native ); neotropical (native ).


Mountain lions use a wide variety of habitats including montane coniferous forests, lowland tropical forests, grassland, dry brush country, swamps, and any areas with adequate cover and prey. Dense vegetation, caves, and rocky crevices provide shelter.

These animals are found in the following types of habitat:
temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial .

Physical Description

29 to 120 kg
(63.8 to 264 lbs)

860 to 1540 mm
(33.86 to 60.63 in)

Basal Metabolic Rate

Mountain lions are large, slender cats. The pelage has a short and coarse texture. The general coloration ranges from a yellowish brown to grayish brown on the upper parts and a paler, almost buffy, color on the belly. The throat and chest are whitish. Mountain lions have a pinkish nose with a black border that extends to the lips. The muzzle stripes, the area behind ears, and the tip of tail are black. The eyes of mature animals are grayish brown to golden. The tail is long, cylindrical, and about one-third of the animal's total length. The limbs are short and muscular. The feet are broad, with four digits on hind feet and five on forefeet. The pollex is small and set above the other digits. The retractile claws are sharp and curved. The skull is noticeably broad and short. The forehead region is high and arched. The rostrum and the nasal bones are broad. The dental formula is 3/3 1/1 3/2 1/1. The mandible is short, deep, and powerfully constructed. The carnassial teeth are massive and long. The canines are heavy and compressed. The incisors are small and straight. Mountain lions have one more small premolar on each side of the upper jaw than do bobcats and lynx.

Males are larger than females. Head and body length ranges from 1020 to 1540 mm in males and 860 to 1310 mm in females. Tail length ranges from 680 to 960 mm in males and 630 to 790 mm in females. Males weigh from 36 to 120 kg and females from 29 to 64 kg.

Some key physical features:
endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry .


Breeding interval
Individual female mountain lions usually give birth every two years.

Breeding season
Mating throughout the year, in northern parts of their range mating is more concentrated from December to March.

Number of offspring
1 to 6; avg. 2.90

Gestation period
84 to 106 days; avg. 92.30 days

Birth Mass
400 g (average)
(14.08 oz)
[External Source: AnAge]

Time to weaning
28 days (low); avg. 40 days

Time to independence
12 months (high)

Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
2.50 years (average)

Age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
3 years (average)

Males maintain territories that overlap with those of several females. They attempt to dominate matings with those females.

A mountain lion in the wild will not mate until it has established a home territory. When the female is in estrous, she vocalizes freely and frequently rubs against nearby objects. The male responds with similar yowls and sniffs the female's genital area. The highest frequency of copulation was nine times in one hour. A single copulatory act lasts less than one minute. There is a 67% chance of conception per mated estrous

Mating systems:
polygynous .

Courtship and mating occurs throughout the year, but is concentrated from December to March in northern latitudes. Gestation periods last from 82 to 96 days. A female mountain lion can come into estrus any time of the year. Estrus lasts about nine days. Females usually give birth every other year. After six cycles without mating, the female has a lull for two months before coming into estrous again. Males remain reproductively active to at least an age of 20 years, and females to at least an age of 12 years. Litters vary in size from 1 to 6 cubs with an average of 3 or 4. Birth weight is between 226 to 453 grams. The cubs open their eyes 10 days after birth. At the same time their ear pinnae unfolds, their first teeth erupt, and they begin play. The cubs are fully weaned at about 40 days of age. Mother and cubs remain together for as long as 26 months, though the average is 15 months. Male young disperse from 23 to 274 km, while females disperse from 9 to 140 km. Males reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age and females at 2 1/2 years.

Key reproductive features:
iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (internal ); viviparous .

Mother mountain lions care for and nurse their young until they are about a year old. The young are born helpless and are protected by the mother in a sheltered area until they are big enough to roam and begin to learn and practice hunting skills.

Parental investment:
altricial ; female parental care ; post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning.


Typical lifespan (wild)

Mountain lions may live up to 18 to 20 years in the wild. They can live slightly longer in captivity.


Mountain lions are solitary animals, with the exception of 1 to 6 days of associations during mating and periods of juvenile dependence. Population densities vary from as low as one individual per 85 square kilometers to as high as one per 13 to 54 square kilometers, depending on the density of prey and other resources in the area. Females with dependent cubs live within the wide space used by the resident male. Mountain lions mark their territories by depositing urine or fecal materials by trees marked with scrapes. Mountain lions are primarily nocturnal. Males are found together immediately after leaving their mother, but rarely as established adults. Mountain lions have summer and winter home ranges in some areas, requiring a migration between ranges.

Home Range

Home ranges of females range from 26 to 350 square kilometers, with an average of 140 square kilometers. Female home ranges may overlap extensively. Male home ranges do not overlap with those of other males and typically encompass the home ranges of two females. They range in size from 140 to 760 square kilometers, with an average of 280 square kilometers.

Key behaviors:
terricolous; nocturnal ; motile ; migratory ; sedentary ; solitary ; territorial .

Communication and Perception

Mountain lions rely mainly on vision, smell, and hearing. They use low-pitched hisses, growls, purrs, yowls, and screams in different circumstances. Loud, chirping whistles by young serves to call the mother. Touch is important in social bonding between mother and young. Scent marking is important in advertising territory boundaries and reproductive state.

Communicates with:
visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical .

Other communication keywords:
scent marks .

Perception channels:
visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical .

Food Habits

Mountain lions are carnivores. Their main prey throughout their range are different species of ungulates, including moose, elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and caribou in North America. They will also eat smaller creatures like squirrels, muskrat, porcupine, beaver, raccoon, striped skunk, coyote, bobcats, other mountain lions, rabbits, opossums, birds, and even snails and fish. They may also prey on domestic livestock, including poultry, calves, sheep, goats, and pigs. Mountain lions have a distinctive manner of hunting larger prey. The lion quietly stalks the prey animals, then leaps at close range onto their back and breaks the animal's neck with a powerful bite below the base of the skull. Yearly food consumption is between 860 to 1,300 kg of large prey animals, about 48 ungulates per lion per year. Mountain lions cache large prey, dragging it up to 350 meters from the place of capture and burying it under leaves and debris. They return nightly to feed.

Primary Diet:
carnivore (eats terrestrial vertebrates).

Animal Foods:
birds; mammals; fish; mollusks.

Foraging Behaviors:
stores or caches food .


Known predators

Mountain lions are top predators. They may be preyed on by other mountain lions, wolves, or bear when they are young or ill.

Ecosystem Roles

Mountain lions are important as top predators in the ecosystems in which they live. They are instrumental in controlling populations of large ungulates.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Although mountain lions are secretive and generally avoid humans, they sometimes attack humans. Attacks are usually on small adults and children traveling alone during dawn, dusk, or at night. It is thought that mountain lions mistake these humans for their ungulate prey. Mountain lions are also considered threats to domestic stock. These threats are sometimes exaggerated. It is helpful to learn more about mountain lion behavior in order to avoid encounters.

Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans:
injures humans (bites or stings).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Mountain lions have considerable trophy value and are hunted for sport. They are also captured to be put in zoos. Mountain lions are important to humans in their role as top predators, helping to control populations of ungulates.

Ways that people benefit from these animals:
body parts are source of valuable material; research and education; controls pest population.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List: [link]:
Near Threatened.

US Federal List: [link]:

CITES: [link]:
Appendix I; Appendix II.

Some subspecies are listed in CITES Appendix I; all others are Appendix II. Some populations are listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Two populations listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act are considered extinct (Puma concolor schorgeri and Puma concolor couguar). Puma concolor coryi, Florida panthers, and Puma concolor costaricensis are considered endangered and extant.


Tanya Dewey (author, editor), Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.

Anupama Shivaraju (author), University of Michigan.


Baker, R.H. 1983. Michigan Mammals. Michigan State University Press, Michigan, pg 536-543.

Currier, M.J.P. 1983. Mammalian Species. The American society of Mammalogists, Michigan, pg 1-7 (200).

Nowak, R.M., Paradiso, J.L. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins

Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan Press.

2009/05/31 04:55:18.781 GMT-4

To cite this page: Dewey, T. and A. Shivaraju. 2003. "Puma concolor" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 06, 2009 at

Disclaimer: The Animal Diversity Web is an educational resource written largely by and for college students. ADW doesn't cover all species in the world, nor does it include all the latest scientific information about organisms we describe. Though we edit our accounts for accuracy, we cannot guarantee all information in those accounts. While ADW staff and contributors provide references to books and websites that we believe are reputable, we cannot necessarily endorse the contents of references beyond our control.

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