The cougar, also commonly known as the mountain lion, puma, panther, or catamount, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andesof South America, is the greatest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in most American habitat types. It is the second-heaviest cat in the New World, after the jaguar. Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although sightings during daylight hours do occur. The cougar is more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat (subfamily Felinae), than to any species of subfamily Pantherinae, of which only the jaguar is native to the Americas.
Generally they prey on deer but also feed on smaller animals if necessary, including domestic animals and livestock. Cougars have even been known to eat insects. Skilled and cunning hunters, cougars stay hidden from their prey until they can pounce with claws out-stretched. Cougars can also climb with ease and leap over 6 m (20 ft.). After killing a large animal, a cougar hides the carcass and eats in the coming days.
For the most part, the cougar has no natural enemies and sits atop the food chain. However, they occasionally compete with other predators such as bears and wolves for food. During most of their lives, cougars are solitary creatures. They interact only to mate, which can happen at any time of year. Females can breed as early as 2-3 years old and give birth to 2-3 kittens at a time. They raise the young while the males return to their solitary lifestyles.
Like almost all cats, the cougar is a solitary animal. Only mothers and kittens live in groups, with adults meeting only to mate. It is secretive and crepuscular, being most active around dawn and dusk.
Estimates of territory sizes vary greatly. Canadian Geographic reports large male territories of 150 to 1000 km2 (58 to 386 sq mi) with female ranges half the size. Other research suggests a much smaller lower limit of 25 km2(10 sq mi), but an even greater upper limit of 1300 km2 (500 sq mi) for males. In the United States, very large ranges have been reported in Texas and the Black Hills of the northern Great Plains, in excess of 775 km2(300 sq mi). Male ranges may include or overlap with those of females but, at least where studied, not with those of other males, which serves to reduce conflict between cougars. Ranges of females may overlap slightly with each other. Scrape marks, urine, and feces are used to mark territory and attract mates. Males may scrape together a small pile of leaves and grasses and then urinate on it as a way of marking territory.
Cougars have been long been killed by both sport hunters and farmers protecting their livestock. Other threats to cougar populations include habitat loss and fragmentation and automobile accidents. As a result, the cougar population has significantly decreased. There are still, however, several thousand cougars in the wild, and as a result, they listed as being of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
Although they once ranged widely throughout North and South America, cougars were largely wiped out from the eastern portion of the United States and Canada by European settlers in the 1700s. There is a small population in Florida, a subspecies known as the Florida panther. The Florida panther is considered to be critically endangered, and agencies are working to maintain the current population.