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Cats: Felidae

Puma (puma Concolor): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The puma, also known as cougar, panther, or mountain lion, has coloration ranging from silvery gray to reddish brown. Having the longest hind legs of all cats, the puma can jump 18 feet (5.5 meters) up a tree. Pumas measure 41 to 77 inches (105 to 196 centimeters), with another 26 to 31 inches

A puma can take down a large animal by breaking the animal's neck with its powerful jaws. (© Charles Krebs/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.)

(67 to 78 centimeters) for the tail. They weigh about 75 to 264 pounds (34 to 120 kilograms).

Geographic range: Pumas are found in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America (including Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela), and Central America (including Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama).

Habitat: Pumas prefer forested areas with cover for hunting and resting. They are adaptable, also occupying mountain areas, swampland, and grassland. They thrive in the desert, getting moisture from the flesh of prey.

Diet: Pumas feed on deer and other large ungulates, large rodents, rabbits, raccoons, and even bats, grasshoppers, and occasionally domestic livestock. A puma eats 20 to 30 pounds (9.1 to 13.6 kilograms) of meat per feeding, burying extra kill and returning later to feed.

Behavior and reproduction: Pumas are solitary animals, mostly hunting at night. They mark territorial boundaries with urine, feces, and scrapes on tree trunks. Scent marks are also used for mating signals. Pumas cannot roar but communicate through squeaks, purrs, growls, and hisses. Both sexes have several partners, mating throughout the year. Females give birth every other year to one to six kittens, making the young leave her territory after about two years.

Pumas and people: Human expansion into puma habitat has resulted in close encounters with the animals. Pumas in the suburbs and cities are likely to be killed.

Conservation status: The United States classifies the Florida panther and the eastern puma as Endangered due to habitat loss to forest clearance, prey reduction, and human expansion. The IUCN lists the puma as Near Threatened. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsCats: Felidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Cats And People, Lion (panthera Leo:): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS