Cougar

Spanish Name: Leon

Habitat: Cougars are adaptive creatures that can be found in a variety of habitats from temperate, coniferous forests to low, multistrata, and tropical rainforests.

Height/Weight: Adult males can be more than 2.7 m long with a tail 60-70 cm long and weigh 60-100 kg. Females are smaller, 1.5 to 2.3 m total in length. Size varies over the geographic range of the species.

Life Span: About 8 to 13 years in the wild.

Puma - Cougar - Mountain LionThe Costa Rican Cougar or puma is the second largest cat in Costa Rica. They are solid tan in color and unlike their close cousins, the cats, they do not have spots. It is an agile and speedy feline who move around easily. Costa Rican cougars weigh anywhere between 100 to 145 pounds.  Males are usually visibly larger than the females. The cougar looks similar to a large, heavy-bodied red-phase jaguarundi. Its primary preys are white-tailed deer, pacas, agoutis, armadillos, monkeys, tamanduas, iguanas, raccoons, and occasionally cattle and horses. The cougar is famous for being a remarkably adept climber and can leap over16-feet off the ground.

One of the largest cats in the Americas, the puma is second in weight only to the jaguar. Adults are generally cinnamon to rufous brown with a white inner side, but young pumas are normally spotted, though over a period of time the pattern becomes more like adults. Until they are 6 months old, it is difficult to distinguish a cougar from jaguars or other felines.

The cougar is a remarkable hunter and athlete in the lower regions of the range. It can leap 16 feet into the air, and is an efficient climber even though it is spotted spends more on the ground. The puma generally attacks its prey from behind, usually first targeting the back of the neck.

Cougars can have 1-6 young ones in a litter at a time, but normally have 2-3 kittens once every couple of years. This cat lives on an average for a decade in the wild, but can survive up to two decades in captivity. Though cougars are highly adaptive big cats, an adult still requires a territory of 75 km2 in the wild. Deforestation and habitat destruction in the tropical regions makes it tough for the cougars to survive because there are fewer areas territorially big enough to support their habitat needs.

Cougars have the largest ranges of all terrestrial animals in the Americas, owing to its ability adapt to a wide range of habitats. The puma can overlap the jaguar’s range and territory, but the larger jaguar is usually dominant to the puma and the puma accordingly adjusts its territory to cleverly avoid confrontation with its fellow feline. This is not too difficult for the puma, since it is capable of inhabiting a larger range of habitats than the jaguar.

The puma population in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama has decreased over the past few years since the public’s enthusiasm for cougar conservation has faded in comparison to its more popular cousin – the jaguar. At the same time, the puma’s spotless body isn’t very appealing to hunters who are in search for good looking hunting trophies. In this vein, puma populations of this region stay at a steady number regardless of the hunting and poaching activities in the region. Even though these cats are officially listed as protected throughout the Americas, it is unusual to find conservation efforts specially directed towards these species in Costa Rica.

Further Reading

http://www.earthsendangered.com/profile-737.html
http://costarica.com/blog/zoo-ave-cougars-crocodiles-macaws/
http://www.panthera.org/node/14

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