Nature calls: Understanding the mountain lion

By Richard Dale

Perhaps no other animal in our state can conjure such a swift and emotional reaction as the mountain lion. Almost everyone has a story to tell about them; whether a personal encounter or someone else’s, the tale usually has the awe and respect that comes from knowing there is a creature living free in the landscape that could, if it wanted to, make a meal of you.

The mountain lion, Puma (or Felis) concolor, is a large member of the family of small cats.

It is found throughout the Americas, except the Eastern U.S. and Canada where they were extirpated after European settlement. A tiny population of less than 100 animals holds on around the Florida Everglades, and remnant or introduced populations may exist in other remote areas.

If its Latin name says it is a cat of one color, its common name says the opposite – the mountain lion is also known as the cougar, puma, catamount, painter, and so on, for some 40 common names, illustrating its wide geographic range and cultural significance.

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