North American cougar

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North American cougar [1]
Cougar - panoramio (2).jpg
A cougar at Wildlife Prairie Park, Illinois State, the USA
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Puma
P. c. couguar
Trinomial name
Puma concolor couguar
(Kerr, 1792)
  • P. c. arundivaga
  • P. c. aztecus
  • P. c. browni
  • P. c. californica
  • P. c. costaricensis(Merriam, 1901)
  • P. c. floridana
  • P. c. hippolestes
  • P. c. improcera
  • P. c. kaibabensis
  • P. c. mayensis
  • P. c. missoulensis
  • P. c. olympus
  • P. c. oregonensis
  • P. c. schorgeri
  • P. c. stanleyana
  • P. c. vancouverensis
  • P. c. youngi

The North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar) is a subspecies of cougar in North America. It was once commonly found in eastern North America, and is still prevalent in the western half of the continent. [3] It is the biggest cat in North America. [4]


The subspecies P. c. cougar encompasses populations found in western Canada, the western United States, Florida, Mexico and Central America, and possibly South America northwest of the Andes Mountains. [3] The population in Costa Rica had been listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List. [5]

Taxonomic history

Puma concolor costaricensis had been regarded as a subspecies in Central America. [3] [6]

As of 2017, P. c. cougar was recognised as being valid by the Cat Classification Taskforce of the Cat Specialist Group. [3]


In Costa Rica, Central America Puma concolor. Costa Rica.jpg
In Costa Rica, Central America

The North American cougar has a solid tan-colored coat without spots and weighs 25–80 kg (55–176 pounds). [7] Females average 50 kg (110 lb), about the same as a jaguar in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast. [8]

Habitat and distribution

The cougar can be found in various places and habitats. [7] Several populations still exist and are thriving in the Western United States, Southern Florida, and Western Canada, but the North American cougar was once commonly found in eastern portions of the United States. It was believed to be extirpated there in the early 1900s. Cougars in Michigan were thought to have been killed off and extinct in the early 1900s. Today there is evidence to support that cougars could be on the rise in Mexico and could have a substantial population in years to come. Some mainstream scientists believe that small relict populations may exist (around 50 individuals), especially in the Appalachian Mountains and eastern Canada. [9] Recent scientific findings in hair traps in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick have confirmed the existence of at least three cougars in New Brunswick. [9] The Ontario Puma Foundation estimates that there are currently 850 cougars in Ontario.

Sightings in the eastern United States

Reported sightings of cougars in the eastern United States continue today, despite their status as extirpated.

  • Genetic analysis of DNA from a cougar sighting in Wisconsin in 2008 indicated that a cougar was in Wisconsin and that it was not a captive animal. The cougar is thought to have migrated from a native population in the Black Hills of South Dakota; however, the genetic analysis could not affirm that hypothesis. Whether other, perhaps breeding, cougars are present is also uncertain. A second sighting was reported and tracks were documented in a nearby Wisconsin community. Unfortunately, a genetic analysis could not be done and a determination could not be made. [10] This cougar later made its way south into the northern Chicago suburb of Wilmette.
  • On June 3, 2013, a verified sighting was made in Florence County, Wisconsin. The cougar was photographed by an automatic trail camera, and confirmed by DNR biologists in October, 2013. [11]
  • On September 26, 2015, a hair sample was submitted by a hunter in Carroll County, Tennessee; DNA analysis indicated it was a female with genetics similar to cougars in South Dakota. [12] Bobcats in this state currently reside in regions that were once roamed by cougars.
  • On April 14, 2008, a cougar triggered a flurry of reports before being cornered and killed in the Chicago neighborhood of Roscoe Village while officers tried to contain it. The cougar was the first sighted in the city limits of Chicago since the city was founded in 1833. [13]
  • On November 22, 2013, a cougar was found on a farm near Morrison in Whiteside County, Illinois. An Illinois Department of Natural Resources officer subsequently shot and killed the cougar after determining it posed a risk to the public. [14]
  • In 2011, a cougar was sighted in Greenwich, Connecticut, and later killed by an SUV in Milford after allegedly travelling 1,500 mi (2,400 km) from South Dakota. [15]

While the origins of these animals are unknown, some cougar experts believe some are captive animals that have been released or escaped. [16]


A cougar in the snow at North Cedar Brook in Boulder, Colorado, the USA Cougar snow.jpg
A cougar in the snow at North Cedar Brook in Boulder, Colorado, the USA

This felid usually hunts at night and may sometimes travel long distances in search of food. Its average litter size is three cubs. [7] Like other cougars, it is fast, and can maneuver quite easily and skillfully. [6] Depending on the abundance of prey such as deer, it may share the same prey as the jaguar in Central or North America. [17]

Aside from the jaguar, sympatric predators include the grizzly and American black bears. [18] Cougars are known to prey on bear cubs. [19]

Rivalry between the cougar and grizzly was a popular topic in North America. Fights between them were staged, and those in the wilderness were recorded by people, including Natives. [20]

Threats and conservation

At Beulah Wildlife Management Unit in Malheur County, Oregon, the USA Oregon Cougar ODFW.JPG
At Beulah Wildlife Management Unit in Malheur County, Oregon, the USA

Even though conservation efforts of the cougar have decreased against the "more appealing" jaguar, it is hunted less frequently because it has no spots, and is thus less desirable to hunters. [6]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Black panther Melanistic colour variant of any of several species of larger cat

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