Mountain lions (Puma concolor) are also called cougars, catamounts, pumas, and panthers, with their regional names reflecting their broad distribution across North and South America. They preside over the largest terrestrial range of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere, living in Canada, the US, Central and throughout South America, including the most southern tip of Chile. Even so, the species is vulnerable to extinction. Following European colonization, the puma was eliminated from the entire eastern half of North America, except for a small endangered subpopulation which exists in Florida.
These maps show the historic (right) and current (left) mountain lion ranges in red. The current map was drawn after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference in 2016.
Habitat The cougar has the largest range of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere—other than humans. They can be found in every major habitat type in the Americas, from arid deserts, smi arid brushlands, and cold coniferous forests, to seasonally flooded savannahs and tropical rainforests except for a few densely populated coastal regions and the high reaches of the Andes. They prefer habitat with complex structure, including rocky, steep mountain ecosystems and varied forests with understory, but also occupies open habitats with minimal vegetation cover, such as Patagonia grasslands.
Mountain lions in Latin America are called pumas. While the pumas shown in the Secret Life Of Mountain Lions are from the United States, they exist in great diversity throughout Central and South America. The pumas in the U.S. are actually a more recent lineage that originated from ancestral pumas in South and Central America. Pumas in their greatest diversity exist south of the United States. Five out of the six genetically identified subspecies of Puma concolor live in Central and South America.
Family Life Like other large carnivores, mountain lions have a relatively low reproductive rate. Females average only three kittens per litter, and mothers are solely responsible for rearing their young. Researchers have found that kittens are likely to starve if their mother dies before they are 1 year of age. In rare instances, another female cougar may adopt orphaned kittens and raise them herself. F61's mother did just that when F61 was a kitten, having taken on 2 orphans when the litter's biological mother was shot. Mountain Lion kittens rely on their mother for food, protection, and survival lessons until they are approximately 18 months old, at which point they must venture off on their own so that their mother can breed again. Young females tend to settle down near their mother, whereas sub-adult males disperse into new territory to avoid conflict with more mature males and to avoid inbreeding with their mother and sisters.