Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Photo

(Puma concolor)

Physical Characteristics: 5 – 9 feet in length, with a shoulder height of 24 – 34 inches and weighing between 70 – 180 lbs. Its body is mainly tawny or cinnamon in color. Its undersides are pale or nearly white. Its body is long and lithe, and its tail is more than half the length of the head and body. Its head, ears and muzzle are all rounded. Their long, strong legs and retractable claws make them excellent climbers and leapers.

Diet: An effective and reclusive hunter, they greatly prey on white-tailed deer, but may also feed on elk, moose, Bighorn sheep, beavers and porcupines. They are known to attack their prey from above or behind, puncturing the back of their necks and taking them to the ground. It is not uncommon for a mountain lion to drag their victim into a tree to feed on, or to bury them in brush, only to return to feed on them again.

Habitat: They are found most frequently in remote forested areas and along rocky hillsides throughout the Northern Rockies. They will occasionally venture into the sub-alpine regions.

Range: Historically, one of the most widely ranged land mammals in the United States, the stronghold for mountain lion populations are now in the West, with a highly imperiled population in Florida (panther). Mountain lions are found in the Clearwater Basin, despite intense hunting pressure.

Reproduction: Females are sexually mature at two years old and may give birth to a litter of 1 – 6 kittens at any time of the year. They generally produce a litter every two years. The tan, black-spotted kittens are blind at birth, but their eyes open at two weeks. Their spots and mottled patterns help to camouflage them when their mother leaves to find food. They are weaned at about six weeks, by which time they weigh about 6 ½ pounds. Young may stay with their mother for up to two years.

Threats: Hunting pressure and urban sprawl are two of the main threats facing mountain lions in the West.

Miscellaneous: Mountain lions usually have a denning site, which can be a cave, a crevice between rocks, underneath an overhang, or inside the hollow of a large tree.

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