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The Mountain Lion, also known as the Cougar, Panther or Puma, is the most widely distributed cat in America. Able to survive in a wide range of habitats, today's Mountain Lion successfully lives and thrives in deserts, coastal range forests and at sea levels of up to 10,000 foot elevations.

DESCRIPTION
The mountain lion is a large, slender cat with a noticeably long tail. Its head is small in proportion to its body, and its short, coarse coat is a light, tawny brown, which sometimes appears gray or black. The throat and chest areas of the lion are whitish in color, and this cat has a pink nose with black borders that extend to the lips. The muzzle stripes, the area behind the ears, and the tip of the tail are also deep black.

Mountain lions are typically 3-4 feet tall and weigh 70-170 pounds. Adult males commonly measure more than 8 feet in length from their nose to the end of their tail, and are much larger than female lions.

The eyes of mature animals are grayish brown to golden and the tail is long and measures about one-third the animal's total length. Limbs of mature lions are short and muscular, and feet are broad and bear four digits on the hind legs and five on the forefeet.

CHARACTERISTICS
Mountain Lions are solitary, territorial hunters who are most active from dusk until dawn. The mountain lion is amazingly graceful and fast on its feet. The predatory behavior of the mountain lion is very similar to a domestic cat, in that they often conceal themselves for surprise attacks while stalking prey. These secretive carnivores prey on deer, wild hogs, rabbits, jackrabbits, javelin and rodents. Mountain lions have also been known to occassionally kill livestock, dogs and humans.

Mountain lions space themselves so that local food supplies and other essentials cannot be depleted. Residents mark their territories by depositing urine or fecal materials by the trees they also mark with scrapes.

Mountain lions have particularly excellent vision and sense of smell. Their hearing is also exceptional and allows them to live a mainly nocturnal existence.

BREEDING
Male mountain lions reach sexual maturity at 3 years and females at 2 years. Mountain lions mate year round, with each female breeding only once every two years. The gestation period is 90-96 days and the typical litter produces 2-6 cubs.

Mountain lions in the wild will not mate until they have established a "home territory." When the female is in estrous, she vocalizes freely and will frequently rub against nearby objects. The male responds with similar yowls and begins to sniff the female's genital area. The single copulatory act lasts less than one minute.

Newborn lions (known as kittens or cubs) weigh approximately 1 pound each, and measure 1 foot in length. Cubs are born with dark spots on their coats, which fade within the first 8-12 months of life. Cubs are weaned at 2 months, when they slowly begin to accompany their mother around the "home area." The female mountain lion raises the litter alone, teaching them to hunt and survive. Cubs often stay within close vicinity of the female for the first two years of life.

TODAY'S LION
The lifestyle of the mountain lion has never changed drastically. This resilient lion functions well in many environments and despite the many threats they face from hunters and nature, the mountain lion has only strengthened in number. Today, mountain lions live a rich existence and live to 18 years of age.