• A bull elk bugles in Yellowstone National Park

    Yellowstone

    National Park ID,MT,WY

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Cougars

A cougar walks downhill through the snow.
A cougar walks through the snow
NPS
 
The cougar (Puma concolor), also known as mountain lion, is the one of the largest cats in North America and a top predator native to Greater Yellowstone. (The jaguar, which occurs in New Mexico and Arizona, is larger.) As part of predator removal campaigns in the early 1900s, cougars and wolves were killed throughout the lower 48 states, including national parks. Wolves (Canis lupus) were eradicated and, although cougars were probably eliminated from Yellowstone, the species survived in the West because of its cryptic nature and preference for rocky, rugged territory where the cats are difficult to track. Eventually the survivors re-established themselves in Yellowstone, possibly making their way from wilderness areas in central Idaho. Learn More...
 

Quick Facts about Cougars in Yellowstone

  • 14–23 resident adults on the northern range; others in park seasonally.
  • Seldom seen
  • Adult males weigh 140–165 pounds; females weigh about 100 pounds; length, including tail, 6.5–7.5 feet.
  • Average life span: males, 8–10 years; females, 12–14 years. Cougars living in areas where they are hunted have much shorter life spans.
  • Preferred terrain: rocky breaks and forested areas that provide cover for hunting prey and for escape from competitors such as wolves and bears.
  • Prey primarily on elk and mule deer, plus porcupines and other small mammals.
  • Bears frequently displace cougars from their kills.
  • Male cougars may kill other male cougars within their territory.
  • Adult cougars and kittens have been killed by wolves.
  • Litters range from 2–3 kittens; 50% survive first year.
 

Additional Resources

References

Did You Know?

Fire in Yellowstone Pineland in 1988

The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.