North American cougar
|North American cougar|
|At Beulah Wildlife Management Unit in Malheur County, Oregon, the United States of America|
P. c. couguar
|Puma concolor couguar|
The North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar), is a population of the mountain lion in North America. It was once commonly found in eastern North America, and is still prevalent in the western half of the continent. It is the biggest wild cat in North America.
The subspecies P. c. couguar encompasses populations found in the United States, western Canada, the critically endangered Florida panther population, the extinct eastern cougar, Mexico and Central America, and possibly South America northwest of the Andes Mountains. Western populations of the cougar are occasionally seen in the former range of the extinct eastern population. The population in Costa Rica had been listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.
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It has a solid tan-colored coat without spots. This cougar reportedly weighs 25–80 kg (55–176 pounds). By comparison, a jaguar in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast would weigh only about 50 kg (110 lb), making it similar to a female cougar.
Habitat and distribution
The cougar can be found in various places and habitats. Several populations still exist and are thriving in the Western United States and Western Canada, but the North American cougar was once commonly found in eastern portions of the United States. It was believed to be extirpated there in the early 1900s. Cougars in Michigan were thought to have been killed off and extinct in the early 1900s. Today there is evidence to support that cougars could be on the rise in Mexico and could have a substantial population in years to come. Some mainstream scientists believe that small relict populations may exist (around 50 individuals), especially in the Appalachian Mountains and eastern Canada. Recent scientific findings in hair traps in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick have confirmed the existence of at least three cougars in New Brunswick. Some theories postulate that modern sightings and scientific data (hair samples) are from a feral breeding population of former pets, possibly hybridizing with native North American cougar remnants, or claim that cougars from the western United States have been rapidly expanding their range eastwards. The Ontario Puma Foundation estimates that there are currently 850 cougars in Ontario.
Sightings in the eastern United States
Reported sightings of cougars in the eastern United States continue today, despite their status as extirpated.
- Genetic analysis of DNA from a cougar sighting in Wisconsin in 2008 indicated that a cougar was in Wisconsin and that it was not a captive animal. The cougar is thought to have migrated from a native population in the Black Hills of South Dakota; however, the genetic analysis could not affirm that hypothesis. Whether other, perhaps breeding, cougars are present is also uncertain. A second sighting was reported and tracks were documented in a nearby Wisconsin community. Unfortunately, a genetic analysis could not be done and a determination could not be made. This cougar later made its way south into the northern Chicago suburb of Wilmette.
- On June 3, 2013, a verified sighting was made in Florence County, Wisconsin. The cougar was photographed by an automatic trail camera, and confirmed by DNR biologists in October, 2013.
- On April 14, 2008, a cougar triggered a flurry of reports before being cornered and killed in the Chicago neighborhood of Roscoe Village while officers tried to contain it. The cougar was the first sighted in the city limits of Chicago since the city was founded in 1833.
- On November 22, 2013, a cougar was found on a farm near Morrison in Whiteside County, Illinois. An Illinois Department of Natural Resources officer subsequently shot and killed the cougar after determining it posed a risk to the public.
While the origins of these animals are unknown, some cougar experts believe some are captive animals that have been released or escaped.
This felid usually hunts at night and may sometimes travel long distances in search of food. Its average litter size is three cubs. Like other cougars, it is fast, and can maneuver quite easily and skillfully. Depending on the abundance of prey such as deer, it may share the same prey as the jaguar in Central or North America.
Threats and conservation
Even though conservation efforts of the cougar have decreased against the "more appealing" jaguar, it is hunted less frequently because it has no spots, and is thus less desirable to hunters.
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- Eastern Cougar Foundation
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- Photograph of a black or dark cougar in Costa Rica
- Largest North American Cat: Mountain Lion (Cougar)