Welcome to You Ask Andy

Laurie Snyder, age 11. of Portland, Ore., for her question:


At one time, the mountain lion lived throughout the forests of the United States and southern Canada. But when settlers moved in, the mountain lion moved out.

Now you'll find the mountain lion living wild only in the Western states from eastern New Mexico and Wyoming to the Pacific Coast, and in a few places in Louisiana and Florida. A few also live in Alberta and British Columbia and from Mexico to the tip of South America.

A mountain lion may reach a length of five feet, not counting its tail. The tail can be two to three feet long. The heaviest mountain lion on record weighed 227 pounds.

Early settlers called the animal cougar. They thought it was a female lion. Other names given to this animal include puma and catamount.

A mountain lion can give a terrifying cry that sounds very much like a woman screaming in pain. The animal can also make a soft whistle call.

Mountain lions hunt at night and can travel long distances after game in a single night. Deer is the mountain lion's chief prey with elk a second choice. Occasionally the large member of the cat family will eat porcupines or even skunks.

When hunting, the mountain lion keeps under cover as it stalks its prey. Then the lion makes a sudden leap upon the animal, breaking the animal's neck or dragging it down to the ground.

Many ranchers regard mountain lions as pests, even though they seldom kill calves or other domestic amimals. Biologists say that the mountain lion should be controlled but not killed off because the big cats play an important part in the animal world: they feed mainly on old or diseased deer.

A female mountain lion has from one to five cubs at a time, generally two years apart.

A mountain lion cub will weigh only about one pound at birth. It is covered with fur and it is blind. While the parents are either a gray color or a reddish or yellowish color called tawny, the cubs are a lighter color than their parents.

The cubs have large brownish black spots on the body and dark rings on the short tail. The dark spots disappear as the young animals grow older.

Adults care for their young until they are able to survive alone. Young lions need about two years to develop enough skill in hunting to be able to find their own food.

Mountain lions in the wild may live to be 10 to 20 years old.

Mountain lions are usually timid toward man and are less likely to attack him than other wild cats. According to Latin American legend, they have a playful nature and seem to want to make friends with man.

The mountain lion belongs to the cat family, Felidae. The mammal is genus Felis, species F. concolor.


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