North American cougar

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.[2] It is the biggest cat in North America, with North American jaguars being fairly small.[3][4] It thus includes the extirpated Eastern cougar and extant Florida panther populations.

North American cougar
Cougar - panoramio (2).jpg
A cougar at Wildlife Prairie Park in Illinois
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Puma
P. c. couguar[1]
Trinomial name
Puma concolor couguar[1]
(Kerr, 1792)
  • P. c. arundivaga
  • P. c. aztecus
  • P. c. browni
  • P. c. californica
  • P. c. costaricensis (Merriam, 1901)
  • P. c. floridana
  • P. c. hippolestes
  • P. c. improcera
  • P. c. kaibabensis
  • P. c. mayensis
  • P. c. missoulensis
  • P. c. olympus
  • P. c. oregonensis
  • P. c. schorgeri
  • P. c. stanleyana
  • P. c. vancouverensis
  • P. c. youngi

Taxonomic historyEdit

As of 2017, P. c. cougar was recognised as being valid by the Cat Classification Taskforce of the Cat Specialist Group. P. c. costaricensis had been regarded as a subspecies in Central America.[2][5]


The North American cougar has a solid tan-colored coat without spots and weighs 25–80 kg (55–176 pounds).[6] Females average 50 kg (110 lb), about the same as a jaguar in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast.[4]

Habitat and distributionEdit

The North American cougar lives in various places and habitats.[6] 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.[7] 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.[7] The Ontario Puma Foundation estimates that there are currently 850 cougars in Ontario.

Sightings in the eastern United StatesEdit

Reported sightings of cougars in the eastern United States continue today, despite their status as extirpated.

  • In 2011, a cougar was sighted in Greenwich, Connecticut, and later killed by an SUV in Milford after allegedly travelling 1,500 mi (2,400 km) from South Dakota.[8]
  • 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.[9]
  • 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.[10]
  • On September 26, 2015, a hair sample was submitted by a hunter in Carroll County, Tennessee; DNA analysis indicated it was a female with genetics similar to cougars in South Dakota.[12] Bobcats in this state currently reside in regions that were once roamed by cougars.
  • 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.[13] 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.[14]
  • 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.
  • In November 2021, a DNR representative told WDJT-TV that the Department confirms about 15 cougar sightings per year in the state.[15]

While the origins of these animals are unknown, some cougar experts believe some are captive animals that have been released or escaped.[16]


A cougar in the snow at North Cedar Brook in Boulder, Colorado, the USA

The North American cougar usually hunts at night and sometimes travels long distances in search of food. Its average litter size is three cubs.[6] It is fast, and can maneuver quite easily and skillfully.[5] Depending on the abundance of prey such as deer, it shares the same prey as the jaguar in Central or North America.[17] Other sympatric predators include the grizzly bear and American black bears.[18] Cougars are known to prey on bear cubs.[19] Cougars in the Great Basin have been recorded to prey on feral horses.[20]

Rivalry between the cougar and grizzly was a popular topic in North America. Fights between them were staged, and those in the wilderness were recorded by people, including Natives.[21]

Threats and conservationEdit

At Beulah Wildlife Management Unit in Malheur County, Oregon, the USA

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.[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Subspecies Puma concolor couguar". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 544–545. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b Kitchener, A. C.; Breitenmoser-Würsten, C.; Eizirik, E.; Gentry, A.; Werdelin, L.; Wilting, A.; Yamaguchi, N.; Abramov, A. V.; Christiansen, P.; Driscoll, C.; Duckworth, J. W.; Johnson, W.; Luo, S.-J.; Meijaard, E.; O’Donoghue, P.; Sanderson, J.; Seymour, K.; Bruford, M.; Groves, C.; Hoffmann, M.; Nowell, K.; Timmons, Z.; Tobe, S. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News (Special Issue 11): 33–34.
  3. ^ Barrett, J. (1998). Cougar. Blackbirch Press. ISBN 1567112587.
  4. ^ a b Rodrigo Nuanaez; Brian Miller; Fred Lindzey (2000). "Food habits of jaguars and pumas in Jalisco, Mexico". Journal of Zoology. 252 (3): 373–379. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2000.tb00632.x. Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  5. ^ a b c "Cougar Subspecies". Panthera. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
  6. ^ a b c Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild Cats of the World. The University of Chicago Press. p. 452. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
  7. ^ a b Lang, Le Duing; Tessier, Nathalie; Gauthier, Marc; Wissink, Renee; Jolicoeur, Hélène; Lapointe, François-Joseph (September 2013). "Genetic Confirmation of Cougars ( Puma concolor ) in Eastern Canada". Northeastern Naturalist. 20 (3): 383–396. doi:10.1656/045.020.0302. S2CID 84214196.
  8. ^ Mountain lion killed in Conn. had walked from S. Dakota. (2011-07-26). Retrieved on 2012-12-29.
  9. ^ Manier, Jeremy; Shah, Tina (15 April 2008). "Cops kill cougar on North Side". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-04-15.
  10. ^ Times Staff (22 November 2013). "Cougar shot in Whiteside County". Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  11. ^ Barghouthi, Hani (November 7, 2021). "Do increased cougar sightings mean more are roaming Michigan?". The Detroit News. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  12. ^ "Cougars in Tennessee - TN.Gov". Archived from the original on 2017-12-01. Retrieved 2016-06-07.
  13. ^ "Hills Mountain Lion May Have Migrated To Wisconsin". CougarNetwork. Archived from the original on 2008-05-22. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
  14. ^ "Cougars in Wisconsin". Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  15. ^ Becker, Amanda (November 10, 2021). "Wisconsin DNR confirms West Bend trail camera picture is a cougar". CBS58. Retrieved 29 November 2021.
  16. ^ "Northeast Confirmation Reports". CougarNetwork. Retrieved 2007-06-11.
  17. ^ Gutiérrez-González, Carmina E.; López-González, Carlos A. (2017). "Jaguar interactions with pumas and prey at the northern edge of jaguars' range". PeerJ. 5: e2886. doi:10.7717/peerj.2886. PMC 5248577. PMID 28133569.
  18. ^ Grant, Richard (October 2016). "The Return of the Great American Jaguar". Smithsonian Magazine.
  19. ^ Servheen, C.; Herrero, S.; Peyton, B. (1999). Bears: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (PDF). Missoula, Montana: IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group. ISBN 978-2-8317-0462-3.
  20. ^ "JWM: Cougars prey on feral horses in the Great Basin". 20 August 2021.
  21. ^ Tracy Irwin Storer; Lloyd Pacheco Tevis (1996). California Grizzly. University of California Press. pp. 71–151. ISBN 978-0-520-20520-8.
  • Wright, Bruce S. The Eastern Panther: A Question of Survival. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1972.

External linksEdit