By Marla Lise

Puma in Belize. Photo by Rhett A. Butler


Scientific Name: Puma concolor

There are 6 sub-species of puma concolor that range from North America all the way down through Central America to the tip of South America. The puma goes by a few different names, including panther, mountain lion and cougar. The puma is said to hold the record for the animal with the most number of names!

Pumas are nocturnal and have been described to be more similar to the smaller domestic cats than big ones such as lions. One could say they are the largest of the small cats, although they are the fourth largest of all cats, with males usually measuring around 2.5m in length and weighing around 62 kg (155 pounds). The sounds that they make are also more similar to those of small felines than the roars of the big cats. They communicate through growls, chirps and whistles.

Pumas are usually solitary animals, keeping mainly to themselves. They can swim if they have to, but usually avoid the water. pumas are good at climbing trees, which helps them to get out escape bigger predators like jaguars and bears that sometimes share their habitat.

Pumas are carnivores, usually stalking hoofed animals, such as deer, elk, cows and sheep. They are also known to hunt smaller animals such as rodents and birds. They can survive on one deer over a period of 2 weeks, although this time frame can change due to different circumstances. For example, if the puma has cubs, she will need to hunt more often.

Pumas have one litter of cubs every 2-3 years, and survival rates are low, with usually just one cub surviving.

Even though it is listed as a least concern species on the IUCN red list, Puma populations are decreasing in some areas due to a decrease in their habitats due to deforestation and changes in land use. In certain parts of North America it is still legal to hunt Pumas, and in other areas, pumas are hunted illegally. Farmers are not happy that pumas sometimes eat their livestock, and therefore they shoot them.

But killing a puma, which is a top-level predator, has trickle-down effects on the food chain. For example, when pumas decrease, deer numbers increase, impacting vegetation and increasing competition between deer, sometimes triggering a decline in deer populations. Sometimes increased deer populations become a nuisance for humans who tired of deer eating their gardens and contributing to highway accidents. Therefore it is important that pumas aren't eliminated from wild areas. After all, it is their world too.

Photo by Marla Lisa

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