Tuesday 19 July 2011

Mountain Lion Behavior

Mountain lion behavior is of interest to a lot of people in the United States because the mountain lion, aka cougar or puma, is a neighbor to people over about one third of the USA. This large wildcat has been pushed out of the eastern side of America and has gradually, over the 20th century, been forced into the west (2011).

Urban sprawl resulted in people settling on its territory (from the cat's perspective) and this sometimes forces cat and human together, the consequence of which is to the detriment of the cat - it is usually shot if it poses even the merest hint of a threat to people's wellbeing. Tough on the cat, I think. They were there first. And actually they are said to be quite shy and will probably avoid people and can be frightened off. Nearly all attacks on people have been on unsupervised children and they are very rare indeed.

To behavior then....The mountain lion is also found over much of South America still. This shows you how adaptable they are in regards to habitat. They can live in rainforests and high mountains up to 5,800 meters.

Across all these habitats you will find cover that allows them to stalk prey. In Florida, for example, they use cypress swamps and "cabbage palm woodlands" (if they still exist).

Mountain lions are good swimmers and climbers. When chased by people hunting them with dogs they seek refuge in trees where they are shot.

The mountain lion hunts at day and night, peaking at dawn and dusk (crepuscular). They hunt in all weathers except heavy rain. When hunting they travel a lot (e.g, 32 kms in one night). They will wait at one location for prey (for an average of 42 mins).

Prey size ranges from a mouse to a moose. Pumas kill any animal that is vulnerable. Prey size varies with location. In South America there will be competition from the jaguar. In most of North America deer make up 60-80% of the mountain lion diet (ave weight of prey: 39-48 kgs). In South America pumas feed on small to medium sized prey (1-15 kgs). Sometimes mountain lions indulge in surplus killing of sheep, for example. This puts them in conflict with farmers who shoot them. Enlightened ways to deal with this while not killing the cat are sometimes devised. Kill success rates depend on how close the cat can get to the prey, which in turn depends on cover.

A mountain lion attack involves launching itself at the prey, knocking the prey off balance, holding the prey with its claws, killing the prey with a bite to the neck (small animals) or throat (large animals). The act of killing can be slow or fast.

Preying on large animals is dangerous for the mountain lion as it might be injured such that it can no longer hunt. This can lead to starvation. Killed prey are dragged into cover for eating. The mountain lion usually plucks bird's feathers before eating. Pumas have been seem to cover prey with leaves etc. People who sleep out in the open are sometimes mistaken as dead prey and covered with leaves etc for eating in due course! Pumas scavenge too.

The mountain lion like most cats is a loner and makes sounds that are similar to those of the domestic cat. The puma cannot roar. See lots more about the mountain lion on this page.

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