The cougar is one of the most formidable felines in the world. These big cats are intelligent hunters who live solitary lives and prefer it that way! Thankfully, thanks to many dedicated zoologists and cat lovers all around the world, we've been able to gather the coolest info on this incredible big cat.
This may sound confusing, but it isn't! A cougar and a mountain lion are the same species of cat. Both are puma concolor cats, a species that happens to have 32 subspecies. Each of these subspecies has a unique name. So, to keep things simple, what you call this big cat just depends on where you are located.
Cougars kinda live…everywhere!
What is super fascinating about the cougar is how much they've traveled. These big cats have the largest range, not just of any cat, but of any large animal in the Western hemisphere. Cougars live all over North and South America, thriving in a variety of environments. We're talking anywhere from deserts to mountain forests. Specific cougar subspecies that have adapted to certain environments. A fun fact about the subspecies of cougars is that their size depends on where they live. For example, cougars in colder environments are typically larger in size than those living in warmer climates.
These big cats are crepuscular creatures
Cougars are cryptic cats. They are most active at times when human activity is minimal. Like domestic cats, cougars are crepuscular, or hunters who are active from dusk to dawn. Does this make cougars nocturnal? Kind of. Crepuscular creatures can verge on the nocturnal spectrum, especially when avoiding danger (aka, humans.) Yet, these animals almost always prefer to hunt during twilight hours.
Cougars were once known as fire cats
These big cats have been around for a long time. So much so, that tribes in the Puget Sound area would call cougars "fire cats." According to local legends, cougars would descend from the Olympic Mountains, igniting a forest fire all the way to Mount Rainier.
They're impressive hunters
Cougars are crafty and cunning hunters. Their mysterious nature makes them very skilled at catching prey. Not to mention this cat's remarkable sprinting skills that they use to strategically pounce on their prey. Cougars can sprint up to 45 miles per hour! But, don't assume that these cats love to run. If a cougar was in the Olympics, this cat wouldn't be participating in any long-distance events. Cougars' bodies are built for quick bursts of speed, making these cats natural-born sprinters.
This cat's size and hunting skills may fool you to think they only eat meat. Cougars are actually pretty open-minded when it comes to eating. Cougars typically feast on ungulates, or hooved animals, such as moose, cattle, and deer. Yet, cougars are known to sometimes snack on insects, rodents, or even birds. What's even crazier is that cougars have been noted to eat other cougars, too…
These cats have quite the jumping skills
It is insane how far a cougar can jump and leap, even with its size. A cougar can leap up to 40 feet horizontally. And, from a sitting position, a cougar can jump up to 18 feet in the air.
Cougars can't roar like lions
One element that makes cougars as elusive as they are is the fact that they do not roar. Instead, cougars make similar noises to house cats. They purr and hiss. Some cougars even scream or make calls that sound very almost like a human scream!
Some of these big cats compete with alligators
The Florida Panther is a cougar that lives mostly in swampy tropical areas. These areas are also home to alligators, which share some of the same prey as cougars. We know what you're thinking – a cougar and alligator battling it out? No way! Well, we don't know how often these animals have to duel for a meal, but they definitely have to keep an eye out for each other when they're hungry.
But, the cougar's biggest threat still remains humans
While alligators may threaten the meal supply for the Florida panther, cougars are most widely threatened by humans. In fact, the cougar isn't threatened by any other animal in the food chain. It's human intervention, through hunting and deforestation, that has decreased many cougar populations over the years. Cougars are beautiful and dominating creatures that grace the Americas. They live very secretive lives, but that doesn't make them any less interesting. If you or someone you know loves cougars, share this article with them. They may learn a thing or two about these gorgeous felines that they didn't know before.