Physical Characteristics: 5 – 9 feet in length with shoulder height of 24 – 34 inches; weighs 70 – 180 lbs. Tawny – cinnamon in color. Undersides pale or nearly white. Tail is more than half length of head and body. Head, ears and muzzle are all rounded. Long, strong legs and retractable claws enable climbing and leaping.
Diet: Effective reclusive hunter which greatly prey on white-tailed deer; also feed on elk, moose, Bighorn sheep, beavers and porcupines. Known to attack prey from above or behind; punctures back of necks and takes down animal. Not uncommon to drag prey into trees to feed or bury in brush; usually returns for further feeding.
Habitat: Found most frequently in remote forested areas and along rocky hillsides throughout Northern Rockies. Occasionally ventures into sub-alpine regions.
Range: Historically one of most widely ranged land mammals in U.S. Population stronghold is now concentrated in West; found throughout Clearwater Basin. Highly imperiled population in Florida (panther).
Reproduction: Females sexually mature at two years old and may birth 1 – 6 kittens any time of year. Generally produce litter every two years. Blind at birth, but eyes open at two weeks. Born with spots and mottled patterns which help camouflage kittens when mother leaves kittens to hunt. Kittens are weaned at six weeks and weigh about 6.5 lbs. Young may stay with mother up to two years. Denning sites tend to be caves, rock crevices, overhangs, or inside hollow of large trees.
Threats: Urban sprawl/habitat loss is problematic. State fish and game departments also mismanage species leading to intense hunting pressure.
Miscellaneous: Current hunting ban in California.
Learn more about mountain lion management.