Mountain lion sounds – a full complement
Mountain lion sounds can be similar to those of our domestic cat but judging by the audio files below you might not believe it. Although the mountain lion (also called puma and cougar to name two alternatives) is a fairly large cat it has physical characteristics that are similar to small cats, which affect sound production.
The puma can be large at say 250 lbs but is commonly much smaller and can be surprisingly small. For example, in a sample of 37 females in Florida, USA, the mean weight was 36.1 kg with the smallest being 22.7 kg. 36.1 kg is about 80 lbs or a bit more than 5 and a half stones, the weight of a child. By contrast tigers (the world’s biggest cat) are often in the 500 lb category.
Before the classification of cats was based on fairly recent genetic analysis, the puma was placed in the genus of cats called Felis, which is the genus for the small cats (for example, the Scottish wild cat).
The mountain lion’s head has the proportions of a small cat (wild or domestic). This includes:
- the shape of the nose
- the morphology (form and structure) of the cat’s feet
- the shape of the pupils (the central transparent area of the eye that looks black)
- a short and wide skull shape
- a short face (the distance between the eyes and tip of the nose)
What this leads up to in terms of mountain lion sounds is that they don’t roar like the big cats (lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar) but purr like our little cat companions. Roaring comes from the different anatomy of the larynx of the big cats. See this page for an explanation: Tiger Roar. The puma purr is a deeper and larger than the purr of our cat companion, though. (see cat’s purr).
The fact that the puma can’t roar doesn’t exactly mean that it sounds like our pet cat, however! Pumas use a variety of vocalizations that include a purr, meow, hiss and spit. They also make a low amplitude sound that sounds like wah-wah. The wah-wah sound is also made by the Eurasian lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi, caracal, serval and the golden cats (Asian and African).
The frightening puma scream is the long-range call. It has been described as like a high pitched and short roar of one of the big cats.
Then there is the shrill whistle like call. This call has been used by a tame puma after she received a bit of food after the person called her over. The person described the sound as a high pitched, cheeping, whistle. It can travel a good distance (300 yards).
The same whistle call has been heard by researchers in the mountains of New Mexico between members of a family group and up to 300 meters from each other. The whistle would seem to vary between pumas. Mountain lion sounds are varied and some others are that have been heard between males and females are: a low gargling growl, throaty yowls and squeaks. The squeaks and growls traveled about 50-100 metres while the yowls traveled 200 meters.
Single males and females can make an “ouch” sound that apparently indicates frustration or announcing that they are there. Finally, females can vocalize the fact that they are sexually receptive (in estrus or on heat). These sounds have been variously described as: yowling and caterwauling (domestic cats do this but at a lower volume and less harsh).
Below are some videos which lets us hear some of these sounds and immediately below are a serious of audio files of puma sounds. They tend to focus in the gargling grunts, yowls, screams hisses and generally aggressive sounds of this fabulous wild cat.
Range of sounds:
Gargling growl and sharp yowl:
Range of sounds – difficult to describe in words:
Low growl followed by scream/yowl
Female in heat:
Screams (Florida Panther):
Hiss and low growls:
Low close quarters rumbling growl:
Range of sounds:
Videos with Sounds
In this first video we see still photos taken with what appear to be camera trap photos – the photographer calls it “motion activated trail-cam”, which implies it is a camcorder. You will be surprised at the mountain lion scream. The video maker says, “The sound recording is a female lion in heat calling for a mate, recorded locally…”
In the next video we hear some more mountain lion sounds that are not really at all like the sounds made by our pet. But no roar. A much higher pitched sound and apparently you have to go out at night to hear these sounds.
The next video was not intended to be that of a mountain lion scream but I am sure it is. It is faint and comes half way through. The mountain lion is some distance away and the sound is very like the sound in the top video. The general consensus is that it is the mountain lion scream, which is quite distinctive.
“i have been stalked and chased by a male mountain lion so the sound is definitely a mountain lion because i heard that right before it chased me”
The next video is of the mountain lion purring. Only it is not quite like the purr we know! Much deeper and a great sound:
I think that completes the tour of mountain lion sounds. The puma is a beautiful animal. To those people who want to harm it – please don’t, just leave it alone.
From mountain lion sounds to Wild Cat Species
Cat Sounds – all types, domestic and wild
Sources: these are various but I am indebted to the authors of Wild Cats of the World and IUCN Red List.
My Grandpa always told us kids that when we were outside at night especially and you hear a blood curdling scream much like that of a woman when she gets mad for you to head home and get inside and tell your daddy. He will know what to do.
Well I only heard that scream 1 time and it was a long ways off but I went inside anyway and told my step-father. He went outside and he heard it too but said that it wasn’t that close to us.
Good story and thanks for telling it.
It’s been 4 years since I posted. Do you think you will ever get a compilation of mountain lion sounds? (Of course, not in-heat sounds!) It still is the best way to deter coyotes that I’ve found. The only sounds I can get are a few seconds long and I have to keep replaying it instead of watching for my dogs.
I love mountain lions, have lived near them my whole life. Have one now in Oregon who actually caterwauls and yowls at me and my black lab and has done so for five years. You describe a whistle or chirp sound but don’t provide a tape. Could you possibly tape one for me, I think she makes that sound some nights. Thank you for great sounds, Stacey
Hi Stacey, click on the link below:
There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a cougar living in the trees behind my house. At night you’ll hear every dog possible raising heck…not to mention those familiar sounds from the audio.
Wow, look after her/him. Don’t be frigthened. They are very special and beautiful cats. Where do you live?
Your a dope. They kill more than they will ever eat. Sheep, chickens my child’s small dog. No sign of stopping. Children next. Fuck off. And FYI I WAS HERE FIRST!
What rubbish are you spouting Harriet. You were not there before pumas. And what about people? Most Americans eat more than they need to keep alive which is why they are the most obese nation on the planet!
I have found that the sounds of a mountain lion will keep the coyotes from following me while I’m walking my dogs. I have not been able to find a file that is long enough to play for any length of time or on a continuous loop. Is there any chance you could compile such a file?
Hi Rhonda. That’s interesting. I can possibly do that. The trouble is it will take me some time and my time is precious at the moment. I’ll see what I can do but don’t expect anything or something soon! Happy Christmas.
Let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your blog. You have some really good articles and I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please shoot me an email if interested. Kudos!
Hi, if you want you can do an article for me and paste it into a comment. If it’s good enough I’ll convert it to an article and then we can go from there on a more formal footing. Thanks.
Having house cats all my life, when I heard this caturwaling outside my window late one evening, I knew a large wild cat was sending a mating call. A mountain lion was spotted by my neighbor, 300-500 yards from my gate last January. Another neighbor told me a very large bobcat was seen around recently. I found your audios fascinating and extremely helpful in my research to identify puma vs. bobcat?
Thanks for commenting Susan. I’m pleased the audio files helped. You are lucky to be in an area where you can hear mountain lion sounds. I envy you.
I love this website! I have been stalked by a huge red puma in Kern county, ca. It was midday in nationnal forest. I heaard a scrream sounding like that of a red ttailed hawk, but different. I immediatly thoughhht PUMA.Then I ssaw the puma. It croouched, then started after me. Iyelllled, waved a stickk, and stood my ground.It looked at the ground, like embarrassesed, then walked away!! I LOVE THIS BEAUTIFUL ANIMMAL!
Loved your comment. Thanks for visiting. You had a nice mountain lion encounter and you did well.