Puma or Mountain Lion

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Pumas in Costa Rica

Even within protected areas, the long-term viability of puma populations is questionable.
Even within protected areas, the long-term viability of puma populations is questionable.

The Puma is known by many names- the mountain lion, cougar, catamount, and panther to name only a few. The puma is as nearly as large as the jaguar and is one of the two Costa Rican cats that do not have spotted coats. Although their not as numerous as they once were, pumas truly are a Pan-American animal, found in Canada and as far south as Patagonia.

The adult male puma is larger than the female, but the average weight of a puma is 110lbs. The pumas in Costa Rica vary in color from pale tan to reddish.

The puma is active by day or night and will stalk and ambush prey from either the ground or from trees. Jumping on the victims back, the puma will break the victim’s neck with a vigorous bite to the back of the head. Like all cats, the puma is an agile climber and with its powerful hind legs, can leap to branches 16 ft. above the ground. Pumas feed on monkeys, spiny rats, agoutis, pacas, anteaters, armadillos, porcupines, opossums, rabbits, bats, peccaries, iguanas, deer, and snakes. To obtain food, the puma will travel long distances (a puma can travel 40 miles in one night). Studies show that pumas eat approximately six days out of every nine.

Pumas, like jaguars will mark their territory by urinating, defecating, and scraping small patches of ground with their hind legs. This cat tends to prefer higher, drier ground than do the larger jaguars, but if jaguars abound in any given area- the puma is likely to avoid the area all together. Where they do occur together, the pumas are apt to take less large prey.

Pumas make their home in dens, trees, or on the ground. Males and females do not associate together unless the female is in heat and if that is the case, a couple will copulate 50 to 70 times a day. The copulation frequency is high because ovulation in a female can only be induced by frequent mating. The gestation period lasts about three months resulting in one to six young. They will nurse for three or four months and stay with the mother until they are about one and a half to two years old. Pumas reach sexual maturity at about two and half years old. In the wild, they rarely live to see ten years old.

Pumas are rarely found outside of protected areas in Costa Rica. Pumas have been hunted for their pelts, but not nearly to the degree that the spotted cats have been. The puma’s biggest adversary, besides the jaguar, is man. They are still killed by farmers and game hunters in Costa Rica and are adversely affected by habitat destruction through deforestation. The pumas future is questionable at best.