Tuesday, 24 May 2011

mountain lion

 This powerful predator roams the Americas, where it is also known as a puma, cougar, and catamount. This big cat of many names is also found in many habitats, from Florida swamps to Canadian forests.
Mountain lions like to prey on deer, though they also eat smaller animals such as coyotes, porcupines, and raccoons. They usually hunt at night or during the gloaming hours of dawn and dusk. These cats employ a blend of stealth and power, stalking their prey until an opportunity arrives to pounce, then going for the back of the neck with a fatal bite. They will hide large carcasses and feed on them for several days.
Mountain lions once roamed nearly all of the United States. They were prized by hunters and despised by farmers and ranchers who suffered livestock losses at their hands. Subsequently, by the dawn of the 20th century, mountain lions were eliminated from nearly all of their range in the Midwest and Eastern U.S.—though the endangered Florida panther survives.
Today, whitetail deer populations have rebounded over much of the mountain lion's former range and a few animals have appeared in more eastern states such as Missouri and Arkansas. Some biologists believe that these big cats could eventually recolonize much of their Midwest and Eastern range—if humans allow them to do so. In most western U.S. states and Canadian provinces, populations are considered sustainable enough to allow managed sport hunting.
Mountain lions require a lot of room—only a few cats can survive in a 30-square-mile (78-square-kilometer) range. They are solitary and shy animals, seldom seen by humans. While they do occasionally attack people—usually children or solitary adults—statistics show that, on average, there are only four attacks and one human fatality each year in all of the U.S. and Canada.

The Wisconsin mountain lion is currently considered extirpated in Wisconsin (Jackson 1961; Cory 1912).  The last recorded individual was killed in 1908 in Douglas County (Cory 1912).  Adult mountain lions are large unspotted cats (Fig. 1) (Jackson 1961); in Latin, the species name of the mountain lion, concolor, means single color (Pierce and Bleich 2003).  Juvenile mountain lions have black spots (Fig.4) on buff-colored fur for the first 18 months of
life (Jackson 1961). Adult mountain lions have a relatively small round head that sits atop a long, tawny, cinnamon buff-colored torso (Jackson 1961) which is contrasted by a white belly (Pierce and Bleich 2003). Reddish, yellowish and grayish tinges are the most common variations in pelage color.  The middle of the back is darker than the rest of the body.  Other than the black markings at the base of the whiskers (Fig. 2 and 3), tip of the tail, and the dorsal surface of the ears there are no obvious contrasting markings on the coat of an adult mountain lion.  The claws which are retractable function to grasp and hold prey, rather than to aid in forward locomotion (Pierce and Bleich 2003).

Adult Mountain lions exhibit sexual dimorphism; males tend to be larger in size than females (Pierce and Bleich 2003). Adult Mountain lions average 5-9 ft (1.6-2.7 m).  This includes the tail which is 28-35 in (70-90 cm) in length (Jackson 1961).   Jackson (1961) reported that adult mountain lion weights were variable and could range from 80 lbs (36 kg) to 210 lbs (95 kg).  An average male weighs about 160 lbs (73 kg) where as an average female weighs about 135 lbs (61 kg).  A more recent study (Whitaker 1998) estimated male weights ranging from 121-145 lbs (55-65 kg) and female weights ranging from 77-99 lbs (35-45 kg).  Compared to canids, the rostrum of mountain lions is short and occipital orbits are large (Pierce and Bleich 2003).  The shortened rostrum allows for a more powerful bite but reduces olfactory sense; however the larger occipital orbit increases their vision, the sense which they rely on the most.

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