Puma

At Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary we have 3 Pumas. Pumas' Latin name Felis concolor means “cat of one colour”.

The Puma is also known as cougar, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther. The Puma is a mammal which belongs to the family Felidae. They are native to the Americas.

This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. Pumas are an adaptable, generalist species, and they are found in every major American habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in the Western Hemisphere, after the jaguar. Although large, the puma is most closely related to smaller felines and is closer genetically to the domestic cat than to true lions.
 
A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the puma pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates such as deer, elk, moose, and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses and sheep, particularly in the northern part of its range. It will also hunt species as small as insects and rodents. This cat prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but it can also live in open areas.  

Naming and etymology
 
With its vast range, the puma has dozens of names and various references in the mythology of the indigenous Americans and in contemporary culture. The puma has numerous names in English, of which cougar and mountain lion are popular. Other names include catamount, panther, mountain screamer and painter. Lexicographers regard painter as a primarily upper-Southern U.S. regional variant on "panther", but a folk etymology, fancying a resemblance between the typically dark tip of its tail and a paintbrush dipped in dark paint, has some currency.
 
The puma holds the Guinness record for the animal with the highest number of different names, presumably due to its wide distribution across North and South America. It has over 40 names in English alone.

Physical characteristics

Pumas are slender and agile members of the cat family. They are the fourth largest cats and adults stand about 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in) tall at the shoulders. Adult males are around 2.4 m (7.9 ft.) long nose to tail and females average 2.05 m (6.7 ft.), with overall ranges between 1.5 to 2.75 m (4.9 to 9.0 ft.) nose to tail suggested for the species in general. Of this length, 63 to 95 cm (25 to 37 in) is comprised by the tail. Males typically weigh 53 to 100 kilograms (115 to 220 pounds), averaging 62 kg (137 lb). Females typically weigh between 29 and 64 kg (64 and 141 lb), averaging 42 kg (93 lb). 

Pumas can be almost as large as jaguars, but are less muscular and not as powerfully built; where their ranges overlap, the puma tends to be smaller than average. Despite its size, it is not typically classified among the "big cats", as it cannot roar, lacking the specialized larynx and hyoid apparatus of Panthera. Compared to "big cats", pumas are often silent with minimal communication through vocalizations outside of the mother-offspring relationship. Pumas sometimes voice low-pitched hisses, growls, and purrs, as well as chirps and whistles, many of which are comparable to those of domestic cats. They are well known for their screams, as referenced in some of their common names, although these screams are often misinterpreted to be the calls of other animals.

Puma colouring is plain (hence the Latin concolor) but can vary greatly between individuals and even between siblings. The coat is typically tawny, but ranges to silvery-grey or reddish, with lighter patches on the under body including the jaws, chin, and throat. Infants are spotted and born with blue eyes and rings on their tails; juveniles are pale, and dark spots remain on their flanks. 
 
Pumas have large paws and proportionally the largest hind legs in the cat family. This physique allows it great leaping and short-sprint ability. An exceptional vertical leap of 5.4 m (18 ft) is reported for the puma. Horizontal jumping capability from standing position is suggested anywhere from 6 to 12 m (20 to 40 ft). The cougar can run as fast as 55 to 72 km/h (35 to 45 mi/h), but is best adapted for short, powerful sprints rather than long chases. It is adept at climbing, which allows it to evade canine competitors. Although the Puma is not strongly associated with water, it can swim.
 
Hunting and diet
 
A successful generalist predator, the cougar will eat any animal it can catch, from insects to large ungulates (over 500 kg). Like all cats, it is an obligate carnivore meaning it needs to feed exclusively on meat to survive.  
Though capable of sprinting, the puma is typically an ambush predator. It stalks through brush and trees, across ledges, or other covered spots, before delivering a powerful leap onto the back of its prey and a suffocating neck bite. The puma is can break the neck of some of its smaller prey with a strong bite and momentum bearing the animal to the ground. Click here to view a diagram of puma teeth.
 
Reproductive and life cycle

 
Females reach sexual maturity between one-and-a-half to three years of age. They typically average one litter every two to three years throughout their reproductive life, though the period can be as short as one year. Females are in oestrus for approximately 8 days of a 23-day cycle; the gestation period is approximately 91 days. Females are sometimes reported as monogamous, but this is uncertain and polygyny may be more common. Copulation is brief but frequent.

Cougar cubs

Only females are involved in parenting. Female Pumas are fiercely protective of their cubs, and have been seen to successfully fight off animals as large as grizzly bears in their defense. Litter size is between one and six cubs, typically two or three. Caves and other alcoves that offer protection are used as litter dens. Born blind, cubs are completely dependent on their mother at first, and begin to be weaned at around three months of age. As they grow, they begin to go out on forays with their mother, first visiting kill sites, and after six months beginning to hunt small prey on their own. Kitten survival rates are just over one per litter. When cougars are born, they have spots, but they lose them as they grow, and by the age of 2 1/2 years, they will completely be gone. 

Young adults leave their mother to attempt to establish their own territory at around two years of age and sometimes earlier; males tend to leave sooner. Life expectancy in the wild is reported at between 8 to 13 years.
 
Social structure and home range

 
Like almost all cats, the puma is a solitary animal. Only mothers and kittens live in groups, with adults meeting only to mate. It is secretive and crepuscular, being most active around dawn and dusk.
 
Estimates of territory sizes vary greatly. Canadian Geographic reports large male territories of 150 to 1000 square kilometres (58 to 386 sq. mi) with female ranges half the size. Other research suggests a much smaller lower limit of 25 km2 (10 sq. mi). Ranges of females may overlap slightly with each other. Scrape marks, urine, and faeces are used to mark territory and attract mates. Males may scrape together a small pile of leaves and grasses and then urinate on it as a way of marking territory. 
Home range sizes and overall puma abundance depend on terrain, vegetation, and prey abundance.
 
Because males disperse farther than females and compete more directly for mates and territory, they are most likely to be involved in conflict. Where a sub-adult fails to leave his maternal range, for example, he may be killed by his father. When males encounter each other, they hiss, spit, and may engage in violent conflict if neither backs down. 
 
Distribution and habitat

The puma has the largest range of any wild land animal in the Americas. Its range spans 110 degrees of latitude, from northern Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes. It is one of only three cat species, along with the bobcat and Canadian lynx, native to Canada. Its wide distribution stems from its adaptability to virtually every habitat type: it is found in all forest types as well as in lowland and mountainous deserts. Studies show that the Puma prefers regions with dense underbrush, but can live with little vegetation in open areas. Its preferred habitats include precipitous canyons, escarpments, rim rocks, and dense brush.

Aside from humans, no species preys upon mature pumas in the wild, although conflicts with other predators or scavengers occur. The Yellowstone National Park ecosystem provides a fruitful microcosm to study inter-predator interaction in North America.

Interbreeding

A pumapard is a hybrid animal resulting from a union between a puma and a leopard. Whether born to a female puma mated to a male leopard, or to a male puma mated to a female leopard, pumapards inherit a form of dwarfism. Those reported grew to only half the size of the parents. They have a puma-like long body (proportional to the limbs, but nevertheless shorter than either parent), but short legs. The coat is variously described as sandy, tawny or greyish with brown, chestnut or "faded" rosettes.
 
Conservation status

 
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) currently lists the puma as a "least concern" species. The puma is regulated under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), rendering illegal international trade in specimens or parts.

Did you know?

A worthy predator, the puma has a field of vision that spans 130 degrees and can kill an animal four times its size because of its muscular form and stealth. After an attack, it usually buries the carcass and returns later for addition meals.

In one jump, a puma can launch forward up to nine meters, easily carrying the agile animal over canyon mouths or rocky outcroppings. The average sprinting speed of a cougar is 56 kilometres an hour!

SHARE: