Pumas (Puma concolor), also called cougars or mountain lions, are large wild cats that live on the west coast of Canada, in the western half of the United States, and Florida, and most of Central and South America. Pumas are mainly tan-color, and can be up to 9 feet long, although average length is 6 – 8 feet. They can weigh from 29 kilograms to 90 kilograms. (The males are larger.) Most pumas live up to 21 years. Although pumas are very large and some are larger than humans, the puma is classified as a small cat. That means that, in scientific terms, the puma is more closely related to the domestic cat than they are to lions. Unlike the big cats in the genus Panthera, the puma cannot roar. Instead, it can growl, hiss, screech, and purr. Since pumas are, in the biological sense, small cats, they are capable of purring continuously. The big cats can only purr while breathing out.
Pumas are carnivores because they eat only meat. They hunt deer, raccoons, squirrels, foxes, rabbits and skunks. They can also eat mice, beavers, coyotes, birds and porcupines. They hunt at night. Cougars can see better at night than people can. They can hear well too. Pumas stalk their prey, which means they walk slowly and quietly, they hide and then when close, they jump or run fast to catch their prey in a very sneaky way. They live and hunt alone. Female cougars take care of their babies until they are old enough to take care for themselves. Baby cougars are called cubs or kittens.
Cougars live in the mountains and forests far from people. However, encounters with humans happen sometimes. 26 people have been killed by cougars in North America in the last 30 years. However, what cougars have done to people is nothing compared to what people have done to cougars. Cougars used to be found all in eastern North America. However, they were hunted to extinction there by the beginning of the 1900s. Also, recent sightings of cougars have been reported from Michigan, New Brunswick, southern Indiana, Kentucky, and Vermont. For now, the only confirmed, population of cougars east of the Mississippi River is in Florida, where a subspecies of the cougar called the Florida Panther lives.
Schools that have a cougar as their mascot include:
- Brigham Young University (Cougars)
- College of Charleston (Cougars)
- Chicago State University (Cougars)
- Eastern Illinois University (Panthers)
- Florida International University (Panthers)
- Georgia State University (Panthers)
- High Point University (Panthers)
- University of Northern Iowa (Panthers)
- Pennsylvania State University (Nittany Lions)
- University of Pittsburgh (Panthers)
- Prairie View A&M University (Panthers)
- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (Cougars)
- Washington State University (Cougars)
- Alvarado Middle School (Cougars)
- University of Sioux Falls (Cougars)