Nature Notes

Vol. III March 1, 1926 No. 16


Actually, the cougar is one of the most cowardly of animals. Few wild animals are less dangerous to man. Even (often met on the trails of the Park and very popular with our visitors) are far more likely to be dangerous than the stealthy night-prowling cougar. A ten pound pup will put a two hundred pound cougar up a tree and keep him there until he starves - provided the cougar has not learned from experience that one swipe of his powerful paw will send any dog to Kingdom Come.

The mountain lion is the largest member of the cat tribe found within the United States if we except the jaguar, the South American tiger that is occasionally found in the states just north of the Rio Grande.


No North American animal has a wider range than the cougar. At one time it was found from the region of southern Canada to the lower end of South America, inhabiting all types of country from the moist tropical forests to the barren ice-bordered slopes of the northern mountains.

It is a slender, small-headed animal with a long round tail and powerful legs. The total length varies from six to nine feet and the weight from 150 to 200 pounds. In color they vary from a uniform light tawny shade in desert regions to a rich brown - deeper in the back - in the cool moist woods of the Northwest. The kittens, from two to five in number, are a lighter shade and have numerous brown spots and stripes.

Deer are numerous in the Park and the cougar live almost entirely upon them. They usually secure their prey by a silent stalk rather than lying in wait on a limb or a rock and leaping down upon the passing deer as is commonly supposed. Because they are so destructive to the other large game animals, cougar do not receive protection within the Park and are hunted each winter by the rangers. The Biological Survey estimates that one cougar will kill at least 100 deer during a year. At this rate it will be seen that the fifteen or twenty lions that range through the region take a heavy toll from the Park herds. On the other hand we do not want to entirely exterminate such an interesting animal as it has been proven in many instances that disasterour results usually follow the complete upsetting of the balance of nature.

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