Cougar - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Cougar - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Cougar - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image Cougar - Photo Copyright Ward Cameron 2003 - Click to view a larger image 
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Felis concolor

The Cats
Cat Family (Felidae)

Measurement: Size: 170-270 cm (65-90 cm tail) Weight: 70 kg

Description: Nothing looks like a cougar but a cougar. If you see a really big cat with a long tail, it's a cougar. Their body is lean and muscular, tawny in colour with a light underside. Their face has a black mask, and the log tail a matching black tip.

Range: While cougars once ranged across much of North America, they have been forced into a tiny portion of their original range. Today, they are strictly found in the west, in areas of heavy forest. While rarely seen, they are quite common throughout the Canadian Rockies, and somewhat less prevalent through the more heavily developed American Rockies.

Diet: Cougars are extremely efficient hunters. Stalking quietly, they ambush their prey with a sudden attack. They prefer to leap on their prey, clamping down on the throat and severing the spinal chord with their powerful jaws. They may also crush the windpipe by clamping down tightly around the throat. Regardless, the prey is generally one of the large herbivores such as deer, elk or moose. They will also take sheep or rarely goats. Smaller prey will be taken in times of desperation, but without a stable population of large herbivores, the cougar cannot survive.

Reproduction: The ranges of males are much larger than those of females, and generally overlap one another. This is advantageous in that female cougars can come into heat at any time of the year. Male cougars must take advantage of this limited window for mating. After a gestation of 90-96 days, the female will give birth to between one and six kittens. They are blind and helpless at birth, and will remain in the den for several weeks. After weaning at 4 or 5 weeks, they remain with their mother for up to two years. They will usually mate for the first time at about 3 years of age.

While adult cougars have few natural enemies other than man, the kittens are very vulnerable to predation by male cougars. Since females generally don't come into heat again until the kittens leave, should a new male move into the territory, he may try to kill her kittens. She will generally then go into heat soon after, allowing him to mate with her. The kittens may also fall victim to wolves, coyotes, ore even eagles and hawks.

Notes: Recently, cougars have been sighted within townsites like Banff and Canmore and have killed one human and numerous pets. These are very rare occurrences, but highlight the need for most outdoors people and mountain residents to learn more about these powerful animals. click here for information on cougar safety

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All Material Ward Cameron 2005



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