North American cougar
|North American cougar|
|A cougar at Wildlife Prairie Park in Illinois|
P. c. couguar
|Puma concolor couguar|
The North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar) is a cougar subspecies in North America. It was once common in eastern North America, and is still prevalent in the western half of the continent. This subspecies includes populations in western Canada, the western United States, Florida, Mexico and Central America, and possibly South America northwest of the Andes Mountains. It is the biggest cat in North America, with North American jaguars being fairly small. It thus includes the extirpated Eastern cougar and extant Florida panther populations.
The North American cougar has a solid tan-colored coat without spots and weighs 25–80 kg (55–176 pounds). Females average 50 kg (110 lb), about the same as a jaguar in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast.
Habitat and distribution
The North American cougar lives in various places and habitats. Several populations still exist and are thriving in the Western United States, Southern Florida, 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. In Michigan, it was 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. 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.
- In December, 2020, two sightings, one verified, were made in Dane County, in and around Stoughton, Wisconsin. The cougar was photographed by an individual, and confirmed by the Wisconsin DNR.
- 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.
The North American cougar usually hunts at night and sometimes travels long distances in search of food. Its average litter size is three cubs. It is fast, and can maneuver quite easily and skillfully. Depending on the abundance of prey such as deer, it shares the same prey as the jaguar in Central or North America. Other sympatric predators include the grizzly bear and American black bears. Cougars are known to prey on bear cubs. Cougars in the Great Basin have been recorded to prey on feral horses.
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.
- Florida panther
- Shasta (mascot)
- South American cougar
- American cheetah (extinct species related to the cougar, despite its name)
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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)