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. Continue: Cougar Population, Behavior, and History
Number in Yellowstone
26–42 (across all age classes) on the northern range; others in park seasonally.
Where to See
Behavior and Size
Interaction with Humans
Very few documented confrontations between cougars and humans have occurred in Yellowstone.
If a big cat is close by: Stay in a group; carry small children; make noise. Do not run, do not bend down to pick up sticks. Act dominant—stare in the cat’s eyes and show your teeth while making noise.