Posted by: cherylyoung | March 27, 2013

In B.C we have cougars some are dangerous, and other kind you see dowtown can be just as cunning


The cougar, the largest wild cat native to British

 Columbia, is an imposing but evasive member of

 our wildlife secretive habits, and sometimes astounding

 predatoryabilities (the cougar is capable of killing a

 600 pound moose or elk), have resulted in a wealth of

 human misconceptions and irrational fears.

 In some instances, “control” programmes responding

to these fears placed severe and unwarranted hunting

pressure upon cougar populations.


Appearance and Distribution

The adult cougar is a large animal: the heaviest recorded

was an Arizona cougar which weighed 276 pounds.

Although there have been several cougar taken in British

 Columbia weighing between 190 and 210 pounds, the

average adult male weighs about 125 pounds and the

 female 100 pounds.

Large adult males may measure 9 feet in length,

 including  a 30-inch tail.

The fur is short and, in British Columbia, ranges in

 colour from reddish-brown to a grey-brown, with

light underparts.

 Very young kittens are spotted, with ringed tails;

this coloration is gradually lost as young cougar

reach adulthood.

 Adults are unmarked.

Black cougar have been reported from South America

and one  was reported several years ago in the North

 Okanagan  area, while white or very light-coloured

 cougar are  infrequently  reported.

The cougar is found only in the Western Hemisphere,

 from northern B. C to Patagonia in southern


 In Canada, the cougar has been recorded from British

Columbia east to New Brunswick.

(this is the one you are most likely to encounter approach

with caution, they are very deceiving in looks)

Distribution in British Columbia extends north from the

 United States – British Columbia border to Big Muddy

 River on the Alaska Highway South of about 54 degrees

 latitude cougar are generally found from the British

 Columbia-Alberta border west, to and including,

most coastal islands.


 Cougar  have not reached the Queen Charlotte Islands.


In response to human contact with the cougar over such

 an extensive geographical area, many local names have

 developed for this impressive animal: cougar, puma,

mountain lion,  deer tiger, Indian devil, and Mexican

 lion are a few of their descriptive titles.



The territory or home range of individual cougar has

been recognized for many years, but only recently have

 accurate  limits been assigned to these ranges.

 Early estimates suggested that cougar maintained home

 ranges of up to, or greater than, 100 square miles.

In Idaho, where the winter territory of cougar was

 examined, females on the study area maintained

territories of 5 to 20 square miles.

 Females with kittens required larger ranges than

 females without kittens, and some overlap of female

 ranges was noticed.


 Males occupied larger territories – one male occupied a

range of 25 square miles.

 Resident males did not overlap ranges.

Transient cougars moved through occupied ranges,

 but avoided residents.

An occupied range is clearly marked by the resident cougar

 This is done by a series of visual and olfactory signals

 which are easily recognized by other cats.

 Scratch piles are made at regular locations on which

the cougar may urinate or defecate.

 All cougar make these marks, but males mark more

 frequently than females, and the marks are more

numerous  during periods of high populations.

One old male who had taken up residence on a small

coastal island (about 4 square miles) was found to have

 made no scratch piles (at least none was found)

With no other cougar on his island there was no need to

 mark his territory.


Food Habits

The predatory activities of the cougar are legendary,

and prey species in British Columbia range from large

animals  to mice, and include deer, porcupine, beaver,

 varying hare,  moose, elk, wild sheep, mountain goats,

black bear (cubs), grouse, coyote, other cougar, domestic

 stock, and household pets.


The cougar is, in part, an opportunist when looking

 for food.

 A study of the winter food habits of cougar in

British Columbia concluded that mule deer was

the staple winter food, but a variety of other species

 were taken.

 When a population of varying hare was at a peak the

 hare were preyed upon frequently, domestic stock,

when available, were eaten, as were moose.


Adult mule deer bucks (1 1/2 years and older) were

 selected over anterless mule deer, and, in general, very

 old animals were taken by cougar in a greater

proportion  than  represented in the mule deer population.

There are few authentic instances of cougar attacking


 Normal behaviour is one of human avoidance, although

 cougar often displays a harmless curiosity toward the

actions of man.

They have been observed sitting at a vantage point and

 watching, sometimes for hours, people either working

 or  playing out of doors.


 Hunters, and others, have reported the tracks of a cougar

 following their own in the snow.

The infrequent attacks on humans are usually attributed

 to old, starving cougar, or to cougar which are defending

 their young.

When hunting the larger ungulates, cougar do not

crouch  over or near a game trail waiting for the

unsuspecting prey to pass nearby.

 The kill is usually made following a careful stalk of the

 intended victim.

 Cougar hunters have observed that cats must make a kill

 within two or three jumps, usually 20 to 50 feet after their


 If the prey escapes, the cougar will rarely follow, and the

stalk will be repeated upon a different animal.

The kill follows a sudden leap from the ground onto the

shoulders and neck of the prey.

 The most effective kills are made when the cougar holds

 the head with a forepaw and bites down through the back

of the neck, near the base of the skull.

Kills are not always quick or successful and the larger prey,

 particularly large elk, moose, or deer, will struggle violently

 to escape.

 Instances where cougar have been seriously hurt following

 such encounters are infrequent, but not unheard-of.

Porcupine, Racoons despite their troublesome quills,

are not an insurmountable obstacle to a cougar

Cougar tend to avoid the quills by flipping the porcupine on

its back and eating the underparts first.

 It is not necessary however, to eat the flesh only, as cougar

stomachs containing quills in varying stages of digestion

 have  been encountered.

 There appears to be little ill-effect from these quills,

 although single quill may puncture the stomach wall and

 work into the  abdominal cavity.

Cougar are frequently found with quills in their paws and

around the face, but these apparently are either pulled out,

 fall out, or, if they work under the skin, eventually dissolve.


Wasteful behaviour in the killing of prey is the exception

 and not the rule.

 Cougar generally eat about 70 per cent (by weight) of the

carcass of a big-game animal, leaving most of the larger

skeletal bones, the rumen, some viscera, and parts of the



They will make repeated visits to a carcass,

take a meal during each visit, and usually cover the

remains with dirt and debris after each feed.


Although there have been observations where a single

cougar  has killed several deer, domestic sheep, etc., at one

time, detailed studies have shown an adult cougar needs

no more than 14 to 20 average-sized mule deer per year.


This will be less if the diet is supplemented by other foods.

Habitat Preference


Cougar distribution in British Columbia is governed by the

distribution of its major prey species, deer.


 Summer observations are scanty, but as the snow recedes

 cougar probably spread out from the lower slopes and

valley  bottoms to inhabit virtually all elevations within

 their general distributional boundaries.


 During winter months, cougar follow

 the deer down to the lower elevations.

 They seem to prefer the rough, rocky, semi-open areas

 surrounding the major deer winter ranges (in the Interior),

 but they do not confine their activities exclusively to this

 type of habitat, and cougar  signs can be found

anywhere within a game winter range.


Breeding Habits

Cougar are polygamous (one male will breed several

 females)  and only the female tends the young.

Females reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years of age.

 Breeding takes place at any time of the year, and one to

six kittens are born after a gestation period of

about 96 days.

 The single observation of six kittens (from Utah) is an

unusual record and observations in British Columbia

 indicate one to four kittens are carried by the female.


The female gives birth to her young in a rocky crevice

 or den,protected by roots or windfalls, Kittens are born

 with their eyes closed, but these open 10 to 14 days

 after birth.


 The kittens nurse for at least five to six weeks.

 Captive kittens will take meat at about six weeks of age.



Cougar produce a wide variety of sounds, the most

 striking of which is a piercing, drawn-out scream.

Observations on captive cats indicate that only the females

 scream, and such behaviour is particularly prevalent

 during  the mating period.

 Those who have been fortunate enough to hear this scream

in the wild describe it variously as nerve-wracking,

demoniac, terror-striking, a trilling wail, and thrillingly


Unfortunately, this distinctive cry is heard by very few


Cougar also produce a distinctive chuckle as well as many

 of the house cat sounds; mews, hisses, spits, and growls,

 while males and kittens frequently emit a whistle-like sound.

This whistle is used by the kittens to attract the mother.


Population Control

Little is known of the general mortality factors, apart from

 human hunting, which control cougar populations.

Because of the cougar’s strength and agility, they rarely come

 out second-best encountering other forms of wildlife,

although conflicts with grizzly bears are probably avoided.

 Cougar occasionally kill each other.

 Instances are known of adult males killing other males

 during conflicts either for territory, food, or the favours

 of a female.

There also have been authentic observations of males killing

 and eating kittens and young cougar

Some of this cannibalism may be associated with the

 cougar’s need to maintain a territory, and it has been

suggested that the number of available territories may be

 one mechanism which controls cougar numbers.


Starvation may also be an important mortality factor.

Observations of thin and weakened cougar increase during

 years when the cougar population is at a high and prey

 populations are decreasing or low, particularly during

periods of extreme cold and deep snow.

Hunting is difficult at such times, kills are made

infrequently, and cougar have been found near human

 habitation,  barn yards, and chicken runs.

Kittens born during such winters suffer increased

mortalities and some adult cougar probably succumb to


The only measurable population loss is that produced by

the human hunter.

 The rapid increase in popularity of snow

 machines has been a boon to the cougar hunter but has

 placed  a growing pressure on cougar populations.

Cougar Management

Management entails the protection and maintenance of

 existing  cougar populations, with due consideration for

 human safety and  legitimate protection of domestic stock.

 The importance of the cougar as an integral part of the

wildlife of British Columbia cannot be overemphasized,

 and careful management must be maintained.

The cougar’s importance is two fold:

(a) As a legitimate form of outdoor recreation for  hunter

 and non-hunter alike; and

(b) As a regulator of its major prey populations.

Cougars do not limit big-game populations in BC:

 i.e., cougar predation on deer, wild sheep, moose, elk, goat

 does not set an upper limit on the population size of

 the prey.

 However, predation has several beneficial effects upon the

 prey populations.

(a) Predation by cougar tends to force a constant

redistribution of wintering game herds on winter ranges.

The presence of a cougar on the winter range does

 not frighten  game, but when a kill is made the deer,

or other game animals, usually move a short distance

away from the  place of kill.

 This prevents the concentration of animals on a localized

food supply.

(b) Cougar provide a culling effect, particularly  deer herds.

 We now recognize the tendency for cougar to kill older deer

 and very young deer.

 These are generally the age groups where food shortages,

starvation, and disease take a toll, and predation by cougar

 tends to remove some of these animals.

 However, it must be stressed that cougar do not invariably

 select the weak and the sick.

 Many deer in prime condition are taken annually by cat


(c) The final benefit is that of prey-population regulation.

 Animal populations have the ability to rapidly increase and

exceed the land’s capacity to support them.

Predation is one factor which has, through the long history

 of evolution, acted to control natural populations.

The relationship between the cougar and its major prey

 species  is no exception.

Without the slow but constant removal of animals from a

 population the prey populations will increase until some

other  factor, probably either disease, climate or food

exerts an upper limit.

 Control by any of these three may be drastic and sudden,

and animal populations so affected often drop to very low

 levels before a period of recovery sets in.

The human hunter has, in part, reduced the necessity

for the predatory activity of large cougar populations to help

 regulate most of British Columbia’s big-game populations.

However, to maintain the several natural predator species

 including the cougar, restricted hunting seasons and bag

 limits  have been designed to allow room for man and the

 wild predators.






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