The mountain lion is a cat with many names, including puma, cougar, and panther. It is one of North America’s biggest cats. They are fairly common in the park, taking into account the fact that their home range varies from a few square miles to more than 100. Their need for large territories makes sightings a rare event. The mule deer is its favorite prey, and it may eat as much as one deer per week year round. They may also kill elk and small rodents and birds.
Mountain lions are usually tawny to light cinnamon in color with black-tipped ears and tail. They vary in size and weight with males reaching up to 200 pounds and eight feet in length. The females can reach up to 130 pounds and seven feet in length. They are generally solitary animals, and the males always travel alone.
Mountain lions are generally found in rocky canyons and cliffs and forest meadows. Size of the range depends on the amount of food available. The range may be marked with piles of dirt and twigs which signal other lions that this area is occupied. They are most active from dusk to dawn.
Mating and Breeding
Female lions generally reproduce when they are about two and a half years old. Breeding can take place throughout the year but most females give birth between April and July following a three-month gestation period. She usually gives birth to an average of two to three kittens. The birth place may be a secluded spot beneath an uprooted tree or in a rocky depression. The kittens will begin to accompany their mother on hunts when they are six weeks old. By six months they are capable hunters.
When in Lion Country
Sightings are rare and there are few attacks on people. Most of these attacks have been by young lions that have been forced to hunt on their own and are not yet living in established areas. They will key in on easy prey such as pets and small children.
Be sure to go in groups when in lion country and make plenty of noise. Keep children next to you. If you see a lion, stop and don’t run. Speak calmly to the lion in a firm, calm voice. Do all you can to appear larger. If attacked, fight back. Lions have been known to be driven away by prey that fights back.
Did You Know?
Homesteader and lodge keeper Abner Sprague was the first person to pay to enter Rocky Mountain National Park. His fee was $3.