Mysterious, enigmatic, secretive -- the cougar weaves in and out of myth and legend like a wisp of smoke. Catamount, painter, puma, mountain lion: many names from many places, all belonging to the cat known in the Pacific Northwest as cougar. Felis concolor, "cat of a single color" to biologists; in American folklore, ghost walker and ghost of the wilderness.
Cougars, the largest cat in North America, once ranged across the continent. They are now extinct in most of their former range due to aggressive predator control programs and habitat loss. Cougars have all the grace and playfulness of a house cat; they purr and have a taste for catnip. Many people are familiar with cats. We think we understand them, and this can lead to some misconceptions concerning cougars. For they are wild animals and should be respected as such.