Cougar (mountain lion)
Cougars are relatively common in coniferous forests and chaparral-covered foothills, yet seldom seen. No other wild animal can be mistaken for the mountain unless it is the spotted jaguar. The spotted jaguar once was an inhabitant in CA as far north as the Tehachapi Mountains, but now only rarely crosses into southern CA from Mexico. It is often thought that cougars are nocturnal, but they are seen at all times of the day. More and more human-animal contacts are reported as housing tracts consume cougar habitat. The worst enemy of the cougar is man and his dogs. If food is unavailable, they attack livestock, sheep or on rare occasions humans.
- They occur in two color phases, one grayish brown the other reddish brown; there may be intermediate colorations between the two; tail dark-tipped. Young kittens are spotted and have ringed tails; markings lost within first six months. The pelt is of little value because of the coarse guard hairs.
- The track is large, the pad has a characteristic three-lobed appearance in the rear, which is absent in the pad of dogs and coyotes. It has retractable claws.
- Adult cougars range from 6 to 8 ft long, tail 2 to 3 ft long, covered with short hairs; weighs 60 to 260 lbs.; stands 2 to 2 1/2 ft at the shoulder.
- High mountains, coniferous forests, chaparral covered hillsides; travel along rocky ridges, but generally avoid open areas; den is often a cave or crevice, large rock pile or large jumble of tree litter.
- Throughout CA, but not on floor of the Central Valley, or in the Colorado or Mojave deserts; from Canada south to Patagonia.
- Deer is the preferred food, as much as 50% of its diet. Also feed on small mammals such as bobcat, squirrel, mice, and in other areas, skunk, porcupine and rabbits.
- Mating occurs throughout the year; gestation period is about 90 days; cubs usually arrive in April but may be born in any month. A litter is usually two or three kittens, range from one to six. They are born blind.