North American cougar

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North American cougar[1]
Oregon Cougar ODFW.JPG
At Beulah Wildlife Management Unit in Malheur County, Oregon, the United States of America
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Puma
Species: P. concolor
Subspecies: P. c. couguar
Trinomial name
Puma concolor couguar
(Kerr, 1792)
Synonyms
  • P. c. arundivaga
  • P. c. aztecus
  • P. c. browni
  • P. c. californica
  • P. c. costaricensis (Merriam, 1901)
  • P. c. floridana
  • P. c. hippolestes
  • P. c. improcera
  • P. c. kaibabensis
  • P. c. mayensis
  • P. c. missoulensis
  • P. c. olympus
  • P. c. oregonensis
  • P. c. schorgeri
  • P. c. stanleyana
  • P. c. vancouverensis
  • P. c. youngi

The North American cougar (Puma concolor couguar), is a population of the mountain lion in North America. It was once commonly found in eastern North America, and is still prevalent in the western half of the continent.[3] It is the biggest wild cat in North America.[4]

The subspecies P. c. couguar encompasses populations found in the United States, western Canada, the critically endangered Florida panther population, the extinct[5] eastern cougar, Mexico and Central America, and possibly South America northwest of the Andes Mountains.[3] Western populations of the cougar are occasionally seen in the former range of the extinct eastern population. The population in Costa Rica had been listed as least concern by the IUCN Red List.[6]

Taxonomic history

Puma concolor costaricensis had been regarded as a subspecies in Central America.[3][7]

As of 2017, P. c. cougar was recognised as being valid by the Cat Classification Taskforce of the Cat Specialist Group.[3]

Description

Close-up of cougar's head in Costa Rica, Central America

It has a solid tan-colored coat without spots. This cougar reportedly weighs 25–80 kg (55–176 pounds).[8] By comparison, a jaguar in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve on the Mexican Pacific coast would weigh only about 50 kg (110 lb), making it similar to a female cougar.[9]

Habitat and distribution

The cougar can be found in various places and habitats.[8] Several populations still exist and are thriving in the Western United States and Western Canada, but the North American cougar was once commonly found in eastern portions of the United States. It was believed to be extirpated there in the early 1900s. Cougars in Michigan were thought to have been killed off and extinct in the early 1900s. Today there is evidence to support that cougars could be on the rise in Mexico and could have a substantial population in years to come. Some mainstream scientists believe that small relict populations may exist (around 50 individuals), especially in the Appalachian Mountains and eastern Canada.[10] Recent scientific findings in hair traps in Fundy National Park in New Brunswick have confirmed the existence of at least three cougars in New Brunswick.[10] Some theories postulate that modern sightings and scientific data (hair samples) are from a feral breeding population of former pets, possibly hybridizing with native North American cougar remnants, or claim that cougars from the western United States have been rapidly expanding their range eastwards. The Ontario Puma Foundation estimates that there are currently 850 cougars in Ontario.

Sightings in the eastern United States

Reported sightings of cougars in the eastern United States continue today, despite their status as extirpated.

  • Genetic analysis of DNA from a cougar sighting in Wisconsin in 2008 indicated that a cougar was in Wisconsin and that it was not a captive animal. The cougar is thought to have migrated from a native population in the Black Hills of South Dakota; however, the genetic analysis could not affirm that hypothesis. Whether other, perhaps breeding, cougars are present is also uncertain. A second sighting was reported and tracks were documented in a nearby Wisconsin community. Unfortunately, a genetic analysis could not be done and a determination could not be made.[11] This cougar later made its way south into the northern Chicago suburb of Wilmette.
  • On June 3, 2013, a verified sighting was made in Florence County, Wisconsin. The cougar was photographed by an automatic trail camera, and confirmed by DNR biologists in October, 2013.[12]
  • On September 26, 2015, a hair sample was submitted by a hunter in Carroll County, Tennessee; DNA analysis indicated it was a female with genetics similar to cougars in South Dakota.[13] Bobcats in this state currently reside in regions that were once roamed by cougars.
  • On April 14, 2008, a cougar triggered a flurry of reports before being cornered and killed in the Chicago neighborhood of Roscoe Village while officers tried to contain it. The cougar was the first sighted in the city limits of Chicago since the city was founded in 1833.[14]
  • On November 22, 2013, a cougar was found on a farm near Morrison in Whiteside County, Illinois. An Illinois Department of Natural Resources officer subsequently shot and killed the cougar after determining it posed a risk to the public.[15]
  • In 2011, a cougar was sighted in Greenwich, Connecticut, and later killed by an SUV in Milford after allegedly travelling 1,500 mi (2,400 km) from South Dakota.[16]

While the origins of these animals are unknown, some cougar experts believe some are captive animals that have been released or escaped.[17]

Ecology

A cougar in the snow at North Cedar Brook in Boulder, Colorado

This felid usually hunts at night and may sometimes travel long distances in search of food. Its average litter size is three cubs.[8] Like other cougars, it is fast, and can maneuver quite easily and skillfully.[7] Depending on the abundance of prey such as deer, it may share the same prey as the jaguar in Central or North America.[18]

Aside from the jaguar, sympatric predators include the grizzly and American black bears.[19] Cougars are known to prey on bear cubs.[20]

Threats and conservation

Even though conservation efforts of the cougar have decreased against the "more appealing" jaguar, it is hunted less frequently because it has no spots, and is thus less desirable to hunters.[7]

Cultural significance

Rivalry between the cougar and grizzly was a popular topic in North America. Fights between them were staged, and those in the wilderness were recorded by people, including Natives.[21]

See also

References

  1. ^ Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 544–545. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Cat Specialist Group (1996). "Puma concolor ssp. couguar". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 2007-02-07.  Database entry includes a brief justification of why this subspecies is critically endangered and the criteria used
  3. ^ a b c d Kitchener, A. C.; Breitenmoser-Würsten, C.; Eizirik, E.; Gentry, A.; Werdelin, L.; Wilting, A.; Yamaguchi, N.; Abramov, A. V.; Christiansen, P.; Driscoll, C.; Duckworth, J. W.; Johnson, W.; Luo, S.-J.; Meijaard, E.; O’Donoghue, P.; Sanderson, J.; Seymour, K.; Bruford, M.; Groves, C.; Hoffmann, M.; Nowell, K.; Timmons, Z.; Tobe, S. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News (Special Issue 11). 
  4. ^ Barrett, Jalma (1998). Cougar. Blackbirch Press. ISBN 1567112587. 
  5. ^ "Long Extinct Eastern Cougar to be Removed from Endangered Species List Correcting Lingering Anomaly" (PDF). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. USFWS. Retrieved 31 January 2018. 
  6. ^ "Puma concolor (Cougar, Deer Tiger, Mountain Lion, Puma, Red Tiger)". Iucnredlist.org. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  7. ^ a b c "Cougar Subspecies". Panthera. Retrieved 2014-05-30. 
  8. ^ a b c Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild Cats of the World. The University of Chicago Press. p. 452. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. 
  9. ^ Rodrigo Nuanaez; Brian Miller; Fred Lindzey (2000). "Food habits of jaguars and pumas in Jalisco, Mexico". Journal of Zoology. 252 (3): 373–379. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2000.tb00632.x. Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  10. ^ a b 9. Le Duing, Lang, Tessier Nathalie, Gauthier Marc, Wissink Renee, Helene Jolicoeur, and Francois-Joseph Lapointe. 2013. "Genetic Confirmation of Cougars (Puma concolor) in Eastern Canada." Northeastern Naturalist 20, no. 3: 383-396. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 29, 2015).
  11. ^ "Hills Mountain Lion May Have Migrated To Wisconsin". CougarNetwork. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  12. ^ "Cougars in Wisconsin". Retrieved 2013-11-22. 
  13. ^ "Cougars in Tennessee - TN.Gov". www.tn.gov. Retrieved 2016-06-07. 
  14. ^ Manier, Jeremy; Shah, Tina (15 April 2008). "Cops kill cougar on North Side". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-04-15. 
  15. ^ Times Staff (22 November 2013). "Cougar shot in Whiteside County". Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  16. ^ Mountain lion killed in Conn. had walked from S. Dakota. Content.usatoday.com (2011-07-26). Retrieved on 2012-12-29.
  17. ^ "Northeast Confirmation Reports". CougarNetwork. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  18. ^ Gutiérrez-González, Carmina E.; López-González, Carlos A. (2017-01-18). "Jaguar interactions with pumas and prey at the northern edge of jaguars' range". PeerJ. Retrieved 2018-05-31. 
  19. ^ Grant, Richard (October 2016). "The Return of the Great American Jaguar". Smithsonian Magazine. 
  20. ^ Servheen, C.; Herrero, S.; Peyton, B. (1999). Bears: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (PDF). Missoula, Montana: IUCN/SSC Bear Specialist Group. ISBN 978-2-8317-0462-3. 
  21. ^ Tracy Irwin Storer; Lloyd Pacheco Tevis (1996). California Grizzly. University of California Press. pp. 71–151. ISBN 978-0-520-20520-8. 

Sources

  • Wright, Bruce S. The Eastern Panther: A Question of Survival. Toronto: Clarke, Irwin and Company, 1972.

External links

  • Eastern Cougar Foundation
  • National Heritage Information Centre: General Element Report: Puma concolor
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation: Eastern Cougar Fact Sheet
  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
  • Photograph of a black or dark cougar in Costa Rica
  • Largest North American Cat: Mountain Lion (Cougar)
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