Have you ever bought a Puma shirt and wondered about the logo, why is it an animal for an outfit?
You might have heard of several big cats in the world like lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, etc. The mountain lion, also known as puma or cougar (depending on the geographical area you are located), is an interesting wild cat. The Puma concolor or Felis concolor holds the Guinness World Record for the cat with the most names. The mountain lion has over 80 different names. It is often called “the cat of many names” with 40 in English! They have many names because of their wide range! People from different countries call them different names. Early Spanish explorers of North and South America called it leon (lion) and gato monte (mountain cat), hence the name "Mountain Lion." "Puma" is what the Incas called this cat in their language. “Cougar” comes from an old South American Indian word, cuguacuarana, which was then shortened to "cougar". “Panther” is a general term for cats with solid-colored coats, so it was used for black pumas as well as black jaguars and black leopards. All these names are considered correct, but in Southern California, they are referred to as mountain lions.
Mountain lions have different coats (fur) depending on where they live. They usually have a solid tawny coat with darker hair on their backs and lighter hair on the underside of their stomach. Mountain lions living in warm and humid areas tend to have darker reddish-brown fur, while those living in colder climates tend to have long, silvery-gray hair.
Scientists consider Mountain Lions as small, although they are very big cats. They are also very adaptable which explains their multiple names. They have a strong build with large paws and sharp claws. Their hind legs are much more powerful than their forelegs, giving them tremendous jumping power. They can jump 18 feet (5.5 meters) from the ground to a tree and 20 feet (6.1 meters) up or down a hillside. Additionally, their flexible spine allows them to move and change direction quickly.
Mountain lions eat a variety of things. They usually eat deer, pigs, capybaras, raccoons, armadillos, hares, squirrels and almost anything that is available nearby. Big mountain lions can take down big prey. While doing so, they may endanger themselves with hooves, antlers and horns which are capable of inflicting life-threatening injuries. They also do “cash”, which means saving food for later, using resources like leaves, grass, dirt, and even snow. They do this depending on the time of year. They can even consume porcupines without harming themselves with their quills.
Mountain Lions usually live in large territories. Their territory varies from 30 to 125 square miles. These big cats sometimes share their territory. The males’ home ranges are the biggest and sometimes overlap the females’.
They communicate with feces, urine, scratched logs, or scraps in wood or even snow. They can also growl, hiss, meow, yowl, squeak, spit or purr but are commonly known for their high-pitched scream. When a mother expects a cub, she rubs her scent on rocks and other debris to attract a male for help and defense. The male sticks with the mother. She sets up a den where she gives birth to about one to six cubs. The cubs are usually blind when they are born and get their eyesight within 6 weeks to 3 months. The newborns also have spots that help them camouflage. The mother nurses them for approximately 3 months, and at six months, they are ready to tear and eat meat on their own. Their spots fade away, and they learn to hunt. The cubs stay with their mother for up to 12 to 18 months.
Mountain Lions are ambush hunters and can swim, but they don’t do it very often as they just don’t like to get wet! They have sharp eyesight; they usually find prey with its movement and attack in surprise. They can be on the prowl during the day but are most active around dawn or dusk.
When you go hiking and encounter a mountain lion, do not run. Mountain lions can reach speeds of 40-50 miles (64-80 kilometers) per hour, and their instinct is to chase running prey. Back away very slowly and do not bend over as it could take you for prey. Put your arms in the air and make yourself look big. Open a jacket if you are wearing one and slowly wave your arms. Try speaking in a loud voice to scare it and throw rocks or branches toward it; don’t crouch or turn your back, but fight back instead.
By doing all this, you can help keep them safe. And any problematic mountain lion should be reported to authorities. Mountain Lions are critically endangered in California and considered a species of concern. If we take care of them, we will have this big cat's grace and power for a long time to come.
I hope you enjoyed knowing and learning about this mighty animal. The next time you wear a Puma shirt, remember to feel its power within you!