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BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Puma concolor

Scientific Name: Puma concolor (Linnaeus, 1771)
English Name: Cougar
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: Jones, C., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, M. D. Engstrom, R. D. Bradley, D. J. Schmidly, C. A. Jones, and R. J. Baker. 1997. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1997. Occasional Papers, Museum of Texas Tech University 173:1-20.
Classification Level: Species
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: M-PUCO
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Apr 2016)
Provincial Status: S4 (Feb 2015)
BC List: Yellow
Provincial FRPA list:   
Provincial Wildlife Act:
SARA Schedule:
General Status Canada: 4 - Secure (2005)
Ecology & Life History
General Description: A large cat with an elongate body, powerful limbs, small head, short face, short rounded ears, and long neck and tail; two color phases: buff, cinnamon, and tawny to cinnamon rufous and ferruginous, and silvery gray to bluish and slaty gray; young are buffy with dark spots, and the eyes are blue for the first few months; color of upperparts is most intense midorsally; sides of muzzle and backs of ears are black; underparts are dull whitish with buff wash across the belly; end of tail is dark brown or blackish; adult total length 171-274 cm in males, 150-233 cm in females; adult tail length 53-81 cm; mass 36-120 kg in males, usually 29-64 kg in females; greatest length of skull 172-237 mm in males, 158-203 mm in females (Nowak 1991, Hall 1981, Maehr 1992, Wilson and Ruff 1999).
Global Reproduction Comments: Gestation lasts about 82-100 days. In the Northern Hemisphere most births occur in April-September, may occur throughout the year in Arizona. Litter size is 1-6 (usually 2-3). Young are weaned after 2-3 months. First reproduction usually occurs at 2-3 years. Young remain with mother for 1-2 years. Usually 2 years between litters (sometimes 1 year if litter does not survive). In the wild, probably few live beyond 10 years.
Global Ecology Comments: Primarily solitary in some areas, extensive overlap of home ranges in other areas (see Pierce et al. 1999). In Idaho, mutual avoidance maintains density of breeding adults below level set by food supply.

Annual home range varies greatly in different areas (13-1454 sq km); home range of male (generally 200 to several hundred sq km) averages larger than that of female (Kitchener 1991; Pierce et al. 1999; see also Hansen 1992 for interstate comparisons of home range size). See Beier et al. (1995) for information on movements in the Santa Ana Mountains, southern California. See Laing and Lindzey (1993, J. Mamm. 74:1056-1058) for information on replacement of individuals on vacated home ranges in Utah.

Density usually not greater than 3-4 adults per 100 sq km (8-10 per 100 sq mi) (Kitchener 1991).

Annual mortality rate in an unhunted population in Utah was 26%, over 50% in resident adults in a hunted population in Montana (see Hansen 1992).
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
Y /
Y /
N /
na /
Global Migration Comments: In Idaho, migrates between fairly distinct but usually contiguous winter-spring and summer-fall home areas (Seidensticker et al. 1973). In California, some lions migrated together, often slowly, following movements of mule deer, between winter and summer ranges; other lions migrated quickly, crossed the Sierra Nevada crest, and summered in a disjunct range with lions not sharing their winter range (Pierce et al. 1999).
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Agriculture / Cultivated Field / Facultative - occasional use
Agriculture / Hedgerow / Facultative - occasional use
Agriculture / Pasture/Old Field / Facultative - occasional use
Alpine/Tundra / Alpine/Subalpine Meadow / Unknown
Alpine/Tundra / Krummholtz / Facultative - occasional use
Alpine/Tundra / Tundra / Facultative - occasional use
Anthropogenic / Urban/Suburban / Facultative - occasional use
Forest / Conifer Forest - Dry / Facultative - frequent use
Forest / Conifer Forest - Mesic (average) / Facultative - frequent use
Forest / Conifer Forest - Moist/wet / Facultative - frequent use
Forest / Deciduous/Broadleaf Forest / Facultative - frequent use
Forest / Mixed Forest (deciduous/coniferous mix) / Facultative - frequent use
Grassland/Shrub / Meadow / Facultative - frequent use
Grassland/Shrub / Sagebrush Steppe / Facultative - frequent use
Riparian / Gravel Bar / Facultative - frequent use
Riparian / Riparian Forest / Facultative - frequent use
Riparian / Riparian Herbaceous / Facultative - frequent use
Riparian / Riparian Shrub / Facultative - frequent use
Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Cliff / Facultative - occasional use
Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Facultative - occasional use
Rock/Sparsely Vegetated Rock / Talus / Facultative - occasional use
Wetland / Bog / Facultative - occasional use
Wetland / Fen / Facultative - occasional use
Wetland / Marsh / Facultative - occasional use
Wetland / Swamp / Facultative - occasional use
Global Habitat Comments: Now associated generally with mountainous or remote undisturbed areas. May occupy wide variety of habitats: swamps, riparian woodlands, broken country with good cover of brush or woodland. Beier (1993) determined that habitat areas of at least 2200 sq km are needed to ensure long-term population persistence; protection of corridors for immigration is highly desirable. Young are born in secluded places among rocks or dense vegetation (e.g., see Beier et al. 1995, Bleich et al. 1996).
Food Habits: Carnivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Primary food is deer in many areas. Highly opportunistic, also eats various large and small mammals (bighorn sheep, livestock, coyote, squirrels, rabbits, mice, etc.), insects, and reptiles. In Peru and Chile, rodents and lagomorphs, respectively, were important prey (see Hansen 1992). Unused remains of prey are covered for later consumption. Stalks prey from ground. In southern California, on average, an adult killed about 48 large and 58 small mammals per year and fed for an average of 2.9 days on a single large mammal (Beier et al. 1995).
Global Phenology: Circadian: Adult, Immature
Crepuscular: Adult, Immature
Global Phenology Comments: Active throughout the year. Active any time, day or night, but most hunting occurs dawn or dusk (Jones et al. 1983). Peak activity within 2 hours of sunset and sunrise in absence of human disturbance; near human presence, activity peaks after sunset.
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: N
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 274/ / 120000
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: Historically had widest distribution of any native American mammal (other than humans); from Canada south to southern Chile and southern Argentina and from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. In eastern North America, now definitely known to occur only in southern Florida and Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Evers 1992). Possibly a small population exists in southeastern Canada; see Stocek (1995) for a review of recent reports from the Maritime Provinces. Elsewhere in North America, currently restricted mainly to mountainous, relatively unpopulated areas. Sea level to 14,800 ft.
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: Hammerson, G.
Last Updated: Sep 05, 1996
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
References and Related Literature
Banfield, A. W. F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada. 438 pp.
Barnes, C.T. 1960. The cougar or mountain lion. Salt Lake City, UT. 176 pp.
Beier, P. 1991. Cougar attacks on humans in the United States and Canada. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 19:
Beier, P. 1993. Determining minimum habitat areas and habitat corridors for cougars. Conservation Biology 7:94-
Beier, P., D. Choate, and R. H. Barrett. 1995. Movement patterns of mountain lions during different behaviors. Journal of Mammalogy 76:1056-1070.
Belden, R. C., et al. 1988. Panther habitat use in southern Florida. J. Wildlife Management 52:660-663.
Bleich, V. C., B. M. Pierce, J. L. Davis, and V. L. Davis. 1996. Thermal characteristics of mountain lion dens. Great Basin Naturalist 56:276-278.
Caire, W., J. D. Tyler, B. P. Glass, and M. A. Mares. 1989. Mammals of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. Oklahoma. 567 pp.
Culver, M., W. E. Johnson, J. Pecon-Slattery, and S. J. O'Brien. 2000. Genomic ancestry of the American puma (PUMA CONCOLOR). Journal of Heredity 91:186-197.
Currier, M.J.P. 1983. FELIS CONCOLOR. Mammalian species, 200:1-7.
Dixon, K. R. 1982. Mountain lion. Pages 711-727 in Chapman, J. A., and G. A. Feldhammer, editors. Wild mammalsof North America. Biology, management, and economics. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore.
Eaton, R.L. 1973. The status, management, and conservation of the cougar in the United States. The World's Cats, 1:68-86.
Evers, D. C. 1992. A guide to Michigan's endangered wildlife. Univ. Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. viii + 103 pp.
Hall, E. R. 1981a. The Mammals of North America, second edition. Vols. I & II. John Wiley & Sons, New York, New York. 1181 pp.
Handley, C. O., Jr. 1991. Mammals. Pages 539-616 in K. Terwilliger, coordinator. Virginia's endangered species: proceedings of a symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia.
Hansen, K. 1992. Cougar: the American lion. Northland Publising Company, Flagstaff, Arizona. xiii + 129 pp.
Hoffmeister, D. F. 1986. Mammals of Arizona. University of Arizona Press and Arizona Game and Fish Department. 602 pp.
Jones, J. K., Jr., D. M. Armstrong, R. S. Hoffmann, and C. Jones. 1983. Mammals of the Northern Great Plains. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Jones, J. K., Jr., R. S. Hoffman, D. W. Rice, C. Jones, R. J. Baker, and M. D. Engstrom. 1992a. Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico, 1991. Occasional Papers, The Museum, Texas Tech University, 146:1-23.
Kitchener, A. 1991. The natural history of the wild cats. Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca. xxi + 280 pp.
Maehr, D. S., and J. B. Wooding. 1992. Florida black bear URSUS AMERICANUS FLORIDANUS. Pages 265-275 in S. R. Humphrey, editor. Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. I. Mammals. Univ. Press of Florida, Gainesville. xviii + 392 pp.
Matthews, J.R. and C.J. Moseley (eds.). 1990. The Official World Wildlife Fund Guide to Endangered Species of North America. Volume 1. Plants, Mammals. xxiii + pp 1-560 + 33 pp. appendix + 6 pp. glossary + 16 pp. index. Volume 2. Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, Fishes, Mussels, Crustaceans, Snails, Insects, and Arachnids. xiii + pp. 561-1180. Beacham Publications, Inc., Washington, D.C.
Nowak, R. M. 1991. Walker's mammals of the world. Fifth edition. Vols. I and II. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, Baltimore. 1629 pp.
Pierce, B. M., V. C. Bleich, J. D. Wehausen, and R. T. Bowyer. 1999. Migratory patterns of mountain lions: implications for social regulation and conservation. Journal of Mammalogy 80:986-992.
Seal, U. S., et al. 1989. Florida panther FELIS CONCOLOR CORYI viability analysis and species survival plan. Captive Breeding Specialist Group, IUCN.
Seidensticker, J. C., IV, M. C. Hornocker, W. V. Wiles, and J. P. Messick. 1973. Mountain lion social organization in the Idaho Primitive Area. Wildlife Monogr. 35:1-60.
Stocek, R. F. 1995. The cougar, FELIS CONCOLOR, in the Maritime Provinces. Canadian Field-Naturalist 109:19-22.
Tischendorf, J. W., and S. J. Ropski, editors. 1996. Proceedings of the eastern cougar conference, 1994. American Ecological Research Institute. 245 pp.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1980. Selected vertebrate endangered species of the seacoast of the United States- the eastern cougar. FWS/OBS-80/01.44, Slidell.
Van Dyke, F. G., et al. 1986. Reactions of mountain lions to logging and human activity. J. Wildl. Manage. 50:95-102.
Van Sickle, W. D., and F. G. Lindzey. 1991. Evaluation of a cougar population estimator based on probability sampling. J. Wildl. Manage. 55:738-743.
Van Sickle, W. D., and F. G. Lindzey. 1992. Evaluation of road track surveys for cougars (FELUS CONCOLOR). Great Basin Nat. 52:232-236.
Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder (editors). 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Second edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. xviii + 1206 pp. Available online at:
Yanez, J. L., et al. 1986. Food habits of the southernmostmountain lions (FELIS CONCOLOR) in South America: natural versus livestocked ranges. J. Mamm. 67:604-606.
Young, S. P. and E. A. Goldman. 1946. The Puma, mysterious American cat. Part I (by Young). History, life habits, economic status, and control. Part II (by Goldman). Classification of the races of the puma. American Wildlife Institute (also Dover Publ., Inc., New York). 358 PP.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 1996. Species Summary: Puma concolor. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Mar 1, 2024).