The Mountain Lion is referenced by a number of names with the most common being cougar. Outside of the United States and Canada the Mountain Lion is sometimes called panther and in Latin America it is called puma. Cougars are found only in the western hemisphere and they have the most extensive natural distribution of any wild mammal in the western hemisphere. Montana’s mountain lion populations occupy a wide variety of habitats, each capable of supporting both mountain lions and their prey
At roughly the same length and height as the North American jaguar the Cougar is the second largest cat in the western hemisphere. Adult North American cougars generally weigh 100-150 pounds but can weigh as much as 180 – 200 pounds. These cats are 6-8 feet in length including a tail of 28-36 inches. Female Mountain Lions are about 40 percent smaller than the males. These cats are slimmer and more lightly built, with long legs, a comparatively long neck and a head that is remarkably small for such a large cat. Their coat is thick and soft in two color phases, which may vary seasonally. One color ranges from buff to reddish-brown, the other is a dull shade of gray. Their tail is long and cylindrical and covered with thick fur that becomes thicker at the dark tip.
Cougars are solitary cats with the males being territorial, actively maintaining and marking their home ranges, which are typically 25-35 square miles. Females usually give birth to 3-4 kittens (range is 1-6) every other year. Although there is no fixed breeding season, most births take place in late winter or early spring. The kittens are spotted until about six months of age and they remain with the mother for 1 1/2 to 2 years. The cougar is largely nocturnal and shy, alert and elusive. It is not aggressive toward humans, but attacks do occur, especially in areas where cougars have been allowed to overpopulate. Mountain Lions can be found in any area of Montana.
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