Secretive by nature, it moves through the night silently and unseen traversing steep canyons or forest areas effortlessly in search of prey – or a mate. Sacred to the Hopi (who call it “oha”) they believe it to be the strongest and most fearless animal, and the greatest of hunters; and symbolizes the just and correct use of leadership and power, with dignity and grace.
June 12th is
National Cougar Day
So it is fitting I begin this series with Puma concolor. Cougar. Mountain Lion. Puma. Catamount. Panther. Painter. Ghost Cat.
One of the “big cats”, the Cougar is smaller than the Jaguar but bigger than the Leopard and is native to the Americas. Believed to have originated in Asia 11 million years ago, the Cougar may have been related to the now-extinct American cheetah (Miracinonyx). Indeed, the Cougar shares a similarity with the modern-day Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) in that neither have the ability to ROAR. Instead, both purr like a house cat! And despite its size, the Cougar is more closely related to smaller cats (including Felis catus) than to any species of subfamily Pantherinae.
Although they once ranged widely throughout North and South America, Cougars were largely wiped out from the eastern portion of the United States and Canada by European settlers in the 1700s. There is a small population in Florida, a subspecies known as the Florida panther. The Florida panther is considered to be critically endangered and agencies are working to maintain the current population.
The Cougar is listed on CITES Appendix II and as Least Concern on IUCN Red List. However, Cougars have been long been killed by both sport hunters and farmers protecting their livestock. Other threats to populations include habitat loss and fragmentation, depletion of prey base due to poaching, and automobile accidents. As a result, the Cougar population has significantly decreased.
Hunting of this magnificent cat is PROHIBITED in: Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela, Columbia, French Guiana, Suriname, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, most of Argentina, and California – the only state in the whole of the U.S. to ban Cougar hunting. (Note that both Canada and Mexico are noticeably absent from this list…)
Only a soulless human being could resist protecting this puss face!
Native American Cougar Mythology
Mountain Lion: An Unnatural History of Pumas and People
Pumas Are More Social Than Previously Thought
The Cougar Fund