The American Lion

By Dave Hanks

When I was a boy, my Dad had a band of sheep that were summered in the south hills by Porcupine Springs. My Mother used to read me stories about panthers, and my older brothers regaled me with many Mountain Lion stories. Those stories put the fear in me whenever I went with my father to the mountains to check on the sheep. We slept in the open upon the ground, and nighttime was an uneasy experience to a small boy. They talked about the cat screaming, and I listened in the night but never heard it.

The Mountain Lion (Puma, Cougar, Panther, or Catamount) is the USA’s largest cat. A mature lion can measure up to eight feet in length and a big male can weigh as much as 200 pounds. He is 40 percent heavier than the female. Adults are a solid tan color, but cub coats are spotted, and they are born with blue eyes. There are 24 sub-species of this animal and their range extends from Canada’s Yukon Territory to the southern tip of South America. These supremely adaptable animals can live in a variety of habitats - from the Florida swamps, to the Rocky Mountains of the west, and even close to human populated areas.

Deer are the major prey source but any animal, including carrion, can be on their menu. They are extremely stealthy and will stalk and ambush their prey. Whether it’s day or nighttime – it makes no difference. These big cats live a solitary life, except when mating, are very secretive, and hard to find without the help of dogs. They are good tree climbers and have been known to leap as high as 18 feet. Males are constantly marking their territory with urine.

Mountain Lions try to avoid people, but attacks do occur on rare occasions. If you are hiking in lion territory, there are some precautions to take: 1. Hike with a group, never alone 2. Take a DOG along on a leash. He will spot any danger. 3. Keep children under close watch 4. Keep standing and never run 5. Never bend over – you could be mistaken for a four legged prey 6. Carry pepper spray or a walking stick as a deterrent 7. Stand tall and wave arms and make noise

(Puma concolor - Tan against the Black)