|The puma is neither a big cat nor a small cat although it is the largest native North American cat. The puma has a large body with a small cat’s cranium. Perhaps though this cat is not quite as large as some people think or the name suggests. It is certainly much smaller than a lion and slightly larger than a leopard or a cheetah. The weight range is 55-176 lbs (see average weight). The weight of the mountain lion varies considerably over its vast distribution across the Americas.
At the most southerly and northerly limits of the Puma’s range this cat is twice the size as cats living in the central tropics.Except for the plain colored coat, the mountain lion is similar in some respects to the cheetah. The head is relatively small and rounded. This cat has a rangy, lanky appearance with legs that are moderately long. The hind legs are an adaption for climbing it is thought as they are “unusually long”. The puma is not only an excellent climber and jumper but also fast on the ground when required. The flexibility of the puma’s body is similar to that of the cheetah, which accounts for its speed.
The mountain lion is similar to the cheetah in personality too: retiring and shy. This cat rarely confronts people.
Photo credits (all Flickr names) from top left clockwise: dragaroo, CaliforniaDFG, dracobotanicus, becotopia, Veebl and 905bosun. All photos published under creative commons licenses allowing images to be modified.
|Male pumas are normally about twice as heavy as females. In fact the male is larger in every respect than the female.The coat color and length varies from region to region throughout this cat’s range. In warm, humid climates the color is darker and redder and shorter than elsewhere. In drier landscapes the coat is a lighter brown. The coat color varies from shades of silver through gray to a dark, golden brown. These colors vary subtly across the body. The lower-middle photo above demonstrates this. The coat appears to be ticked by the presence of the agoutigene.The undersides of the puma are white. This includes the chin. The area on either side of the nose leather is also white shading to dark charcoal gray on the nose and muzzle. There is a nicely shaded symmetrical pattern on the forehead. The ears are quite small in relation to head size and gray to black on the back of the ear flaps. The tail is long with a black tip.
Because of numerous sightings, there are melanistic mountain lions. They are black and called “black panthers” accordingly. There are no museum specimens however. Sightings of black Florida panthers are not uncommon but as the cats are radio tagged and/or known, it can be confirmed (at 2002) that there are no black Florida panthers. People misjudge size from a distance and the large black cat captures people’s imagination. However melanistic pumas are said to be found in Central and South America. There are apparently albino pumas too but these are extremely rare.
Mountain lion description – note: I have chosen “mountain lion” in the title because it has not been hijacked by sports businesses (as is the case with “Puma”) or in the case of “cougar” by urban linguists where it means a sexually active older woman looking for a toy boy! This wildcat has many names.
Mountain lion description – references: Wild Cats Of The World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist page 253-254 – ISBN-13: 978-0-226-77999-7 and Wild Cats of the World by David Alderton and Bruce Turner.