Texas Mountain Lion

Is there a Texas mountain lion? Well, yes but what with continual human population growth, increased human activity (including road building), the horrible practice of sport hunting and decreased mountain lion habitat, I am sometimes surprised. That said, the geographic range of the puma (another name for this cat) is the largest of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, although it is shrinking.

This magnificent wild cat once occupied all of the United States but was extirpated (destroyed completely) from the eastern United States by about 1900, except for an “island” habitat in Florida where a precariously vulnerable, small population live (see Florida panther). Some people believe that the puma still roams in the eastern United States but these are probably released captive cats if the sightings are correct.

The Texas mountain lion is like another other (see links at base of page) except there are large variations on the weight of these cats, which is a reflection on the wide range spanning as it does two continents, north and south America. In general terms, pumas at the latitudinal extremes of the range, the tip of southern Chile to the top of the Canadian range are likely to weigh roughly twice those that live in the hot tropics. The climate in Texas is variable so this doesn’t help to assess the relative size of the Texas mountain lion. However in Colorado to the north west of Texas, Mountain lions have been found to weigh about 67 kg for males and 44 kg for females. 45 kg is about 100 lbs. You can see why they can be chased off rather than shot with the proper tactics.

texas-showing-counties

The blue spots in the map above mark the counties in Texas where mountain lion mortalities occurred over the period 1983 to 2005 (source: map based on one made by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department). Mountain lion mortalities are a good way of knowing where this animal’s habitat is. The above map is a modified version of one made by David Benbennick which he released into the public domain under the Wikimedia Commons. It makes for a very nice comparison with a map that shows human population of Texas as at 2000, which is below:

Texas population map

This map shows clearly how the presence of people push out the Texas Mountain lion. It shows the eastern counties as much more heavily populated with people than those in the west. It is almost as if the state is divided up between the two species with no overlaps; a recognition of the impossibility of living in harmony together. The same arrangement of course exists in relation to north America generally. The above map is published under a Wikipedia License (new window).

This is a good opportunity to show the entire mountain lion distribution, which is illustrated on the map below:

cougar range

This map is published under this license. The author of the map is: Zoologist (new window). Despite the quality of this map I think it is a bit outdated (as at June 2009, the date this article was written). As mentioned the range of the mountain lion is ever decreasing and the range in Argentina (bottom area of the map) is decreasing as is the case in Peru where the cat no longer occupies the coastal regions. The areas marked in blue are those areas which are no longer considered to be mountain lion habitat based on information provided by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

cougar range-IUCN

More reading:

From Texas Mountain Lion to Wild Cat Species




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