There are an estimated 30,000 mountain lions in the western United States. They are also called Cougars or Pumas. Mountain lions are not actually closely related to lions, though called lions by Christopher Columbus, the puma is in an entirely different genus. Mountain lions are known scientifically as Puma concolor. They are in the subfamily felinae, rather than the subfamily pantherinae. They are the fourth largest of the cat species weighing in at over 200 lbs and measuring over seven feet long.
Mountain lions are extremely fast. They can jump to forty feet when running and leap fifteen feet up into a tree. They travel around ten miles an hour, sprint up to fifty, and can scale a twelve-foot fence. They walk silently – so silent that it is almost eerie, thanks to the fur on the bottom of their feet.
In the 19th century, a French naturalist coined the mountain lion the “Cuguar” which was a combination of two indigenous terms used to describe the Jaguar (which is a different species and overlaps widely with the Puma) and this term eventually became Cougar. Puma is a word in Peruvian Quechua that means “powerful animal”
The Puma has been called many other names. The Cree Indians called it “Katalgar”, meaning “Greatest of Wild Hunters” and the Chickasaw Tribe called it “Ko-Icto” which means “Cat of God.” The early American colonists used the term “catamount” or “panther”, or colloquial variant “painter.” The puma is also called Ghost Cat because of how rarely they are encountered, and when they are it is for a brief couple of seconds – they vanish in a flash. Even the biologists researching them in the Santa Cruz Mountains have said that it is extremely rare for them to see one in the wild.
In the southeast, the Florida Panther resides and is critically endangered with less than one hundred in number and is the subject of a pretty hot debate. The Eastern Mountain Lion is considered extinct and the Florida Panther is supposed to only inhabit a few small regions in the Florida panhandle. Also, there has been no officially documented black mountain lion. But a great many hunters have seen big cats in the east, me included. I have seen two black panthers and three brown, and know several other people personally who have encountered them.
Mountain lions are highly territorial a solitary animals. Males can have ranges up to five hundred square miles in some areas. It is not surprising that so few people have encountered them in the wild. They are secretive and extremely wary. The stealthy panther is quite possibly the most elusive game in North America.
Mountain lions are almost always brown. They are extremely quiet, until they scream. They do not have the ability to roar. While many animal rights activists are demanding that the Western Mountain Lion be moved to the endangered list – they are quite wrong. Their numbers are strong and the species is highly adaptable. They thrive in territories as far north as the Canadian Yukon and as far south as the Andes Mountains. They have the widest range of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere.
There are only a few states that allow panther hunting. Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota (for residents only), Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. In all states, it is a requirement that enough tissue is left on the skin to identify the cats gender for documentation by officials. Make sure you prop the mouth open before rigor mortis sets up, the wildlife officials have to collect a tooth for research. Remember that spotted kittens and spotted kittens with their mothers are highly protected and must not be harvested.
When hunting for mountain lions, you need a good pack of dogs and its ideal to have a guide. Cougars have such a broad territory range that you can’t really set up over water and they won’t be baited. In most states, using electronic calls is illegal, but calling can occasionally work. The mountain lion tag holder must be present when the dogs are released and present at all times during the chase.
Using a guide is highly beneficial – it’s their job to know where the cats are most likely to be. And the guide will help you to find tracks using horses or snowmobiles with spotlights. Hunting mountain lion is a long ordeal. It can take hours of searching for tracks. Then you release the hounds onto the tracks for them to get the scent. The dogs run off in search of their quarry. You and your guide will follow along. Following the dogs can take hours as well. Once the dogs tree the cat you have to get their pretty quick or the cat may escape.