Profile by Phil Crosby
|Puma photographed by Ben Willis|
In their native habitat, the puma is the most widespread of the American cats and has the widest distribution of any mammal in the western hemisphere.
Note: an elderly, tame and artritic puma was captured at Cannich near Inverness in 1980. She was named Felicity and lived out her days in captivity in the Highland Wildlife Park. Although she had both sheep & rabbit remains in her stomach when captured, she showed a preference for prepared food which suggests she was not always a wild-living animal.
There are six different sub-species across South, Central & North America. Although closely related, there are variations in size and colour from almost buff, through reddish and sandy browns, to slate grey and light silver. Black (melanistic) pumas have been reported, but have never been verified. The description given is of the most typical variant.
Pumas live for an average of 12-13 years, but they can live for up to 21 years in captivity.
Body length: 105-180 cm, Tail length: 60-90 cm, Shoulder height: 56-78 cm, Average weight: males: 53-72 kg, females: 34-48 kg. Males can exceptionally weigh over 110 kg.
Pumas are large, slender cats with muscular limbs and large feet. The hind legs are proportionally the longest of the cat family. They have uniform grey/brown fur which is short and coarse in texture, and a pink nose. Their underside is creamy white and they have a white throat and chest. The tip of the tail is black and they have black muzzle stripes and are black behind the ears. The tail is very long and reaches a third of the catŐs total length.
The cubs are born with a spotted coat but the spots fade as the cat gets older.
Pumas inhabit South and North America. They are the most widespread of the American cats and have the largest distribution of any western hemisphere mammal.
Pumas keep to mountainous and unpopulated areas. They can be found in coniferous forest, lowland tropical forest, grassland, dry bush country, swamps and any area with adequate cover and prey. They use caves and dense vegetation as temporary shelters.
Pumas hunt moose, deer, beavers, raccoons, mice, birds, porcupines, squirrels, insects and fish. They will often bury unfinished food and return to eat it the next day. Large prey, such as elk, may provide food for over a week.
Pumas are solitary, with the exception of mothers and their young. They have different ranges during the winter and the summer which they will migrate to each year. The male may have ranges in excess of 160 sq. km, which will overlap with the territories of females.
Females may also have overlapping ranges, but males will very rarely overlap with each other. Pumas hunt at dawn, dusk and at night, and have limited activity during the day.
The cat manoeuvres to within 15m of the prey and then uses its powerful legs to lunge at its prey with running jumps that can reach over 12m. It then leaps on to the back of its prey, breaking the animal's neck with a powerful bite. Less often a puma may kill by strangulation of larger prey species.
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