Name: Felis concolor - "Cat all of one color" Subspecies name in California: F. c. californica Family: Falidae Genus: Felis Subgenus: Puma Interesting Fact:The only wide-ranging, long-tailed cat of North America The California mountain lion is also known as "the cat of many names." There are more names in the dictionary for cougars than for any other animal in the world. Although half of California land is prime mountain lion country, this comes as a surprise to many residents and visitors. These large, powerful predators have always lived here, preying on deer and other wildlife, and playing an important role in the ecosystem. They are also known as one of the most adaptable mammals on earth. The status of the mountain lion in California evolved from that of "bountied predator" between 1907 and 1963, meaning monetary incentives were offered for every mountain lion killed, to "game mammal" in 1969, to "special protected mammal" in 1990. The change in legal status reflected growing public appreciation and concern for mountain lions.
Mountain lions are very powerful and normally prey upon large animals, such as deer, bighorn sheep and elk. However, they often prey on small animals such as mice, squirrels, hares, and other rodents. Raccoon, coyote and even insects such as grasshoppers are on the lion's menu. To kill a porcupine, the cougar flips it over and attacks the exposed belly, which has no quills. Today's cougar is the descendant of a Pleistocene predator that specialized in small prey. Contrary to popular belief, cougars do not lurk in the treetops waiting to ambush passer-bys. They hunt on the ground and ambush their prey from behind. They are generally nocturnal and solitary hunters. The success of the hunt depends solely on the element of surprise. By playing in the manner of kittens, they perfect their "stalking" technique at an early age. They are classified as a "stalking predator" rather than a "pursuit predator" like the wolf. A fatal bite below the base of the skull, resulting in a broken neck, is their preferred method of killing prey. Kittens, when they are old enough, are led from the den to a kill by the mother in order to begin their weaning process. The adult cougar may cover the carcass with dirt, leaves or snow. A cougar may feed on one kill for several days. They are generally secretive and solitary, which makes it very likely for a person to live in the same area as a cougar without every seeing one. Sometimes cougars are not nocturnal, because they need to be active at the time time their prey is active. For instance, deer are active at dawn and dusk, so a mountain lion that feeds on deer with adjust its schedule to match the deer's. The sound the lion makes is a terrifying, elongated, piercing scream; which sounds like "the screech of a terrified woman." They also emit birdlike whistles, which are probably used to communicate where they are and instructions between a female and her kittens. One of the great mystery's about cougars is their fear of barking dogs. It is hypothesized that sometime in the cougar's evolutionary past they were preyed upon by barking animals. Mountain lions do well in captivity and have been bred successfully in many zoological gardens. They become tame easily, and have been trained to perform in motion pictures and circus arenas. You may live or play in mountain lion country. Like any wildlife, mountain lions can be dangerous to the uninformed. By arming yourself with a little knowledge of cougar behavior, habitat, and rules for avoidance, you can coexist peacefully with these magnificent animals.
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