A Profile of the Mountain Lion

Learn more about the mountain lion and its behavior.

  • Mountain lions are active year-round.
    Photo by Mike Lentz Photography
  • "The Encyclopedia of Animal Predators" by Janet Vorwald Dohner helps you identify wildlife that can pose a threat to your livestock, poultry, or pets.
    Cover courtesy Storey Publishing

The Encyclopedia of Animal Predators, by Janet Vorwald Dohner (Storey Publishing, 2017), details the traits and behaviors of some of more than fifty animal predators. With this information, you will be better equipped to protect your livestock, poultry, and pets from wild animals. This excerpt from chapter 4 “Cats” gives the facts on mountain lions.

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Encyclopedia of Animal Predators

Mountain lions once roamed throughout the Western Hemisphere from the Yukon in northern Canada to the southern Andes Mountains in Chile. They were found in virtually every type of terrain, from high mountain forests to deserts to tropical wetlands. The mountain lion was present nearly everywhere in the lower 48 states.

With this widespread presence, the big cat came to have more names than any other animal on earth — including cougar, puma, catamount, mountain lion, and panther. From Mexico southward it is still called by its Spanish names leopardo and el leon; indeed, Vespucci, Columbus, and Cabeza de Vaca all mentioned the “lions” they discovered in the New World.

For some time, European fur traders believed they were seeing only female lion pelts and that the larger males were hiding somewhere deep in the forests or mountains. Later it was widely believed that mountain lions were a light-colored African or Asian leopard or panther. In the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, it was often called tyger. Catamount or cat of the mountains was used from New England down the eastern coast. Panther and painter are still used in the southeastern states, although the mountain lion is definitely not a panther. In 1774, the famed naturalist Comte de Buffon first recorded the name cougar, probably evolved from Portuguese based on native Guarani, and puma itself was not used until 1858. Biologists finally settled on the name Puma concolor, or “one color.”

Used as early as 1777, puma is a Spanish word and originated with a native Quechua word meaning “powerful.” The Cherokee klandagi meant “lord of the forest,” and the Chickasaw keoishto described the “cat of the gods.”

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