Monday, November 15, 2010

Animals: Know What's Out There: The Cougar

The cougar is also known as the mountain lion, puma and panther. It is one of only three wild cats native to Canada. The other two are the bobcat and the Canada lynx. The cougar is larger than the other two and has a much longer tail.

- western Canada (sw Alberta, interior BC, BC coast,on Vancouver Island
- endangered in eastern Canada, a few sightings in other provinces.(CWF)
- western US (and Florida), Mexico, Central & South America

- mountains, forests, grasslands, swamps, semi-deserts
- finds shelter in caves, rocks, bushes and thick undergrowth

- depends on where it lives
- adult males may be more than 2.4 m (8 ft.) from nose to tip of tail
- adult males weigh between 58 and 68 kgs (130 and 150 lbs.)
- weight of males in Alberta and British Columbia : 67 - 100 kg (150 - 220 lbs)
- adult females are smaller, may be up to 2.2 m long (7.2 ft.)
- weight of females 40 - 50kg (90 - 110 lbs)
- cougars in N.America are larger than those of Central and South America

- coat is plain, no markings
- coat colour depends on where it lives
- from sandy-brown to reddish-brown, or greyish to dark brown in colour
- darker on the back, light beige on the throat, chest, stomach and inner legs
- kittens have spots which disappear before they are a year old

other features:
- small head, dark markings around muzzle (nose)
- short rounded ears, backs of ears are black
- muscular legs, hind legs are longer
- long tail, dark at the tip (used for balance)

- prefers to hunt in evening and at dawn
- will roam and hunt at any time
- carnivore (meat eater)
- hunts mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose calves
- also eats birds and smaller mammals
(porcupine, beaver, coyote, fox, hare, rabbit, raccoon, ground squirrel)
- known to kill farm animals (poultry, sheep, goats, calves, pigs, horses)
- hunts over a wide area (called territory)
- stalks prey, then leaps and knocks animal to the ground
- bites the animal's throat or neck
- covers up large kills and returns later to finish eating
- runs fast over short distances, but tires quickly

- in rare cases, has been known to attack people
- tries to avoid people
- has many sounds, including purrs, screams, hisses, and growls
- alarm or signal is a shrill whistle

- good climber, makes huge leaps
- good swimmer, but swims only when necessary
- excellent sight and hearing
- long, sharp teeth for holding on to prey and cutting meat
- sharp claws for hunting (catching prey), fighting and climbing
- female usually gives birth every second year (late winter to early summer)
- young are called kittens or cubs
- litters average 2 to 4 (may have as many as six)
- born in a cave, den in rocks, hollow log, under an overturned tree, in thick brush.
- weigh about 200 to 450 grams at birth (7 ounces to 1 pound)
- light brown coat with dark brown spots and a ringed tail
- eyes are closed at birth, open in ten days
- blue eyes when born, change to yellow
- begin walking in two weeks
- live on mother's milk for up to three months
- can eat some meat at six weeks of age
- first mother brings them food, then teaches them to hunt
- stay with mother for the first winter, sometimes for two years

- man hunts cougars with guns, poison, snares, traps, hunting dogs
- farmers and ranchers shoot the cougar to protect livestock

- some native peoples in North and South America revere (honour) the cougar
- lifespan in the wild is up to 18 years
- endangered in eastern Canada and eastern US, only a few left in Florida
- hunting is regulated in Canada, western US and Mexico
- numbers in Canada 4,000 ; B.C. 3500 (most are on Vancouver Island)

Bounties (rewards) were offered for killing cougars when the settlers began arriving, because the animals attacked livestock and even people. Cougars disappeared in the east. When bounties were removed, cougars managed to survive in the west.

Cougar attacks are rare. If you encounter a cougar
- remain calm
- do not approach, do not run
- face the animal and back away slowly
- shout loudly or throw something


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