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Basic Cougar Facts

Cougars have a wide range reaching as far as southern Canada to the tip of South America. There are over 31,000 cougars in 12 western states (WA, OR, CA, NV, NM, TX, AZ, CO, UT, WY, ID and MT), with about a third of them in California and Oregon. If their prey is plentiful and the habitat suits them, these adaptable big cats can gradually repopulate areas they once inhabited east of these states. This has happened in the Badlands of North Dakota and may be occurring in pockets of the Midwest as confirmed evidence of their presence spreads. Cougar populations are also confirmed in southern Florida and in the US/Canadian northeast (Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick).

cougar resting

Cougars prefer habitat that provides them with cover to engage in their stalk and ambush approach to hunting. Steep canyons with ledges to look down from, dense forests and underbrush, rocky landscape, deserts and even open spaces are suitable areas for cougars to hunt in. They compete with wolves, black bears and grizzlies for prey, with deer as their favorite meal, satisfying them for about a week. They also like sheep, goats, moose, elk, rabbits, beavers, cattle, horses, birds, raccoons, and various rodents.

elk in rocky mountain national park

With impressive strength a cougar can down an animal at least six times its weight, such as an elk or moose, either by first attempting to trip it by swatting the hind legs or by jumping on its back, biting the neck and breaking it by snapping the head backward. Weighing 80 to 200 lbs. (the female is lighter) and stretching 8 to 9 ft. from nose to tip of tail, the adult cougar can spring forward between 30 to 40 ft., leap straight up as high as 15 ft., drop from a height of 60 ft. and sprint 35-40 mph. In low light they can see as much as six times better than humans. It is quite apparent that we are no physical match for these regal cats, so we have to resort to wise tactics in order to protect ourselves.

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