Mountain lions, also known as cougars, panthers, or pumas, are highly efficient predators. These cats have a wide range throughout the Western states, and populations are increasing. An individual cat's range depends on food availability. Thus, a range can vary from 8 to 100 plus square miles.
Male lions can weigh up to 190 pounds and grow to more than eight feet in length (nose to tip of tail). Adult females weigh about 90 - 140 pounds. Lions may breed at any time during the year. The gestation period is about 96 days. Kittens have been observed in every month of the year, and the litter may number one to six. Kittens nurse for four to six weeks, and may extend this period after fresh meat is started. Young remain with the mother until they are 15 to 22 months of age. Female lions generally first reproduce at about two and one half years of age. A mountain lion's life span is estimated at 10 years in the wild, although cats have lived up to 25 years in captivity.
Mountain lions are solitary animals. They tend to live in remote country and are seldom seen by humans. They hunt their prey by stealth and ambush. Their method of killing is usually with a powerful bite at the base of the skull, breaking the neck. A mountain lion requires 8 to 10 pounds of meat per day to survive. Its diet consists of deer, elk, cattle, domestic sheep, horses, peccaries, pronghorn, porcupine, fox, jackrabbits, cottontails, even beaver. In general, deer make up 50 to more than 75 percent of the kill and food. On the average, a mature male or an adult female lion without young made a kill about every 10.5 days; a female with young, about every 6.8 days. The time between kills is variable and dependent upon a number of factors such as size of the species and individual killed, the "keeping" ability of the cached prey, and the amount of time the lion spends at the kill. These time periods may differ regionally. In feeding on deer, mountain lions usually select mature bucks. After killing and partially eating a deer or calf, the mountain lion covers the carcass with sticks, dirt, snow, or whatever is available.