Mountain Lion

Mountain lion standing on rocks
Mountain Lion perched on rocks.  Usually, these cats are active at night instead of the day.

Lynn Chamberlain, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Scientific Name
Puma concolor

  • They are the largest completely carnivorous animals in the park. At the shoulders, an adult mountain lion stands about 2-3 feet tall and 6 -7.5 feet long from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail.
  • Mountain Lions have a round head and erect ears. They have powerful forequarters and necks, and long hind legs for leaping and sprinting short distances.
  • The coat is tawny, with lighter patches on the undercoat and around the nose and throat.
  • Mountain lions live from as far north as the Canadian Yukon to as far south as the Southern Andes in South America.
  • They live in a variety of habitats. In Grand Canyon National Park, they most frequently live in the forests of the North and South Rims.
  • Mountain lions have very large territories- their home range is usually around 150 square miles. This means that most mountain lions here live both in the Park and the surrounding Forest Service lands.
  • Mountain lions are ambush predators that prey primarily on mule deer and elk. Mountain lions use a combination of stealth and power, stalking their prey until they find an opportunity to pounce, taking down large animals with a fatal bite to the back of the neck.
  • They are solitary animals.
  • Mountain lions are primarily nocturnal. They have incredible night vision to hunt and navigate at night;they can see with 1/6 of the light that humans need.
  • Females will have litters of one to six cubs and they raise the cubs without help from a male. Infants are born spotted, with blue eyes and rings on their tails.
  • Humans in Grand Canyon have no reason to fear mountain lions because they do not see humans as prey. For mountain lions however, being hit by cars is a common cause of death. Please use caution while driving, especially on East Rim Drive, and keep an eye out for mountain lion and other animals crossing the road.

Open Transcript 


Hi, I'm Ranger Lori and I have just a few minutes to share with you a little glimpse into the life of Grand Canyon’s top predator, the mountain lion. Not only is the mountain lion Grand Canyon’s top predator in every habitat through this park, it’s also serving a valuable role. Its helping to maintain the ecological balance throughout this wilderness ecosystem.

Now, the lion, as our top predator in the park, is also a skillful hunter. Weighing up to 200 pounds and measuring in length from 6 to 8 feet long. This is an animal that is capable of running 45 miles per hour, and leaping 15 feet straight up in the air. Wow! It has wonderful senses; great hearing, spectacular vision. In fact, its vision is so good, it can see with 1/6 of the light that you and I need at night. It’s a wonderful nocturnal vision. Don’t let that stop you from going on a night walk while you’re here, though.

They have tremendous weapons as well. You can see, cats have sharp retractable claws, and powerful teeth. In fact, you can tell by looking at the skull of the mountain lion, this is a true carnivore. We don’t have molars, we only have carnassials, these are designed to slice meat up whole and swallow it down. This is a nocturnal animal, or a corpuscular animal, that means it hunts in the twilight. It uses silence, stealth and stalking to capture its food, typically by ambush.

There’s a lot of dining options here at Grand Canyon National Park, both for people and for mountain lions. Mountain lions could start with an hors d'oeuver, like say, a fox, or a ringtail, or even a javelina or wild turkey. But, that’s just an hors d'oeuver, they move onto a bigger course, something like our mule deer, our elk, or even bighorn sheep. Not an easy thing to do. Their food is 4 or 5 times bigger then they are. And their food – is armed. They’ve got weapons and fight back. Hoofs and antlers and horns that can crack skulls, puncture lungs and break ribs.

This isn’t something we have to deal with. In fact, when we wake up in the morning, and open the fridge and reach for the yogurt, yogurt is not usually trying to kill us in the morning. So, it’s a good thing mountain lions are such skillful hunters.

Mountain lions are playing a valuable role, here at Grand Canyon National Park. They’re helping maintain the ecological balance throughout this wild ecosystem. As they feed upon herds of mule deer and elk, they help keep those populations stable, which in turn, keeps all of the vegetation stable, providing habitat and home for everything underneath it. Now, it’s not just what mountain lions eat, but, it’s what they don’t eat, that keeps them such a valuable player here.

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3 minutes, 25 seconds

Mountain lions (Puma concolor, also called cougars or pumas) inhabit the canyons and forests of the park, and are the region's only remaining large predator. Learn more about this secretive animal's behavior, and habits. Scene description: The entire video is of a of young ranger in uniform. She has shoulder-length hair, and is standing in a forest in front of a large juniper tree with twisted branches.


Last updated: December 18, 2022

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Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



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