Felis concolor

At Torrey Pines State Park, you will find "The Lodge" which is a small museum you'll miss if you aren't looking. Inside, they have a fantastic display of the animals and plants of the region. It's a shame that man has squeezed these large cats out.

What’s in a name?
Mountain lion, puma, cougar, panther—this cat is known by more names than just about any other mammal! But no matter what you call it, it’s still the same cat, Felis concolor, the largest of the small cat species. So how did it get so many names? Mostly because it has such a large range, and people from different countries have called it different things. Early Spanish explorers to North and South America called it leon (lion) and gato monte (cat of the mountain), from which we get the name "mountain lion." Puma is the name the Incas gave this cat in their language. Cougar seems to have come from an old South American Indian word, cuguacuarana, which was shortened to cuguar and then spelled differently. And panther is a general term for cats that have solid-colored coats, so it was used for pumas as well as black jaguars. All of these names are considered correct, but scientists usually use the name puma.

Here in Southern California they are commonly called mountain lions. You may have heard of the Florida panther. This is a subspecies of mountain lion that used to be found from Texas throughout the southeast, but is now only found in Florida. It is endangered, with only about 50 cats left, and conservation efforts are underway to try to save it.

Mountain lions and people
As more people have moved into the mountain lion's territory, the number of encounters with these cats has increased. This is often "big news" and frightens people. But overall, meeting a mountain lion is an unlikely event. The cats don’t want to confront humans, and they will do their best to avoid us. You can avoid them, too, by not hiking alone, or at dusk and dawn when mountain lions are hunting. Make noise as you hike, and don’t leave food out around a cabin or campsite, especially at night. If you do happen across a mountain lion, never approach it—always give it a way to escape.
Some people have considered mountain lions to be pests and shot them on sight, or trapped or poisoned them. That’s one of the reasons the cats have become scarce across North America. It’s important to remember that mountain lions have an essential role to play in their ecosystems. They are one of the top predators, and without them populations of deer and other animals would become unhealthy and too large for the habitat. It’s true that mountain lions can be dangerous, and problem cats should be reported to local animal control agencies, like the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. But people like to live and play in or near wild places, so we need to understand and respect the wildlife that also lives there. If we take responsibility for our own actions, pets, livestock, and property, we can learn to live with mountain lions and appreciate their power and grace.

Fun Facts
  • Mountain lions can jump 18 feet (5.5 meters) from the ground into a tree, and they have been known to jump 20 feet (6.1 meters) up or down a hillside. That’s the height of many two-story buildings!

  • Mountain lions are good swimmers, but they’d rather not get in the water because they don’t seem to like being wet.

  • Even though we hear it a lot in movies and on TV, mountain lions don’t make that "wild cat scream" very often. More common vocalizations are whistles, squeaks, growls, purrs, hisses, and yowls.

  • Some mountain lions eat porcupines, quills and all, apparently without any harm!
    See them at The San Diego Zoo: Cat Canyon
Merci http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes for the above information!


*SparkleMirror* Kiln-Fired Art Studio said...

I took many photos of this place in my last days in San Diego in 2001. It was a meloncholy experience, and I didn't know (or just didn't rmemeber) the name of the place. I remember it being a very calming place. I may post those pictures soon... I'll have to think of a premise.

Lois said...

Wonderful post and pictures! I posted a picture of 2 Florida panthers on my blog last month: http://tallydailyphoto.blogspot.com/2009/04/florida-panthers.html

Paul said...

Bearing in mind I think perhaps people have got more chance of being killed by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion. I really cannot understand peoples attitude to these magnificent animals. Like the bear, if you live in 99% of towns in the USA today you are very unlikely to see one in the wild.
Great post Nancy.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Wow The Puma Is So Beautiful And Powerful !! Amazing Capture..

Cezar and Léia said...

wow Luna's cousin!;-)
Many thanks for so great information!
Wonderful pictures and very interesting post!

Jacob said...

The Florida panther is a protected specie...As I recall they have made a bit of a comeback, but when we first moved to Florida 20 plus years ago, there were only 32 left.

They are, indeed, beautiful, if dangerous animals.

~Cheryl said...

I remember visiting this kitty!

gogouci said...

Here kitty, kitty, kitty.

Sue said...

Fascinating info,....I sure wouldn't want to meet up with one. Beautiful, but deadly!

vnv4 said...

Hi there! Wonderful pics. Was this a live mountain lion or stuffed? I love animals so dearly and hate when mankind pushes them out of their own habitat.

Anonymous said...

what is not to like about the water this could almost be cleveland where i'm from

Shanimal said...

I currently live in Utah and we had a "mountain lion warning" not 2 blocks from where I live. I absolutely love big cats and even though they can be dangerous, I don't think people should just go out killing them as if the cats have no right to this territory too.

I hope the Florida Panthers can make a comeback.

Serena said...

Such nice pictures and awesome post. The info was very interesting.

TangentialStagnation said...

What a fascinating creature.

I think this is the first time I've seen pictures of, and read anything about, mountain lions. I've always noticed the passing references to them in American music and literature; but never gave much thought to their appearance, behaviour, or continued existence in the wild.

A very interesting and educational post for me - thankyou.