MAY 17, 2017 9:15 AM PDT

Uncovering the mysterious mountain lion


You may know the mountain lion by one of its many other names: cougar, puma, catamount, panther. This animal is the largest feline species in North America and has long led an elusive lifestyle. Mountain lions can reach up to almost the size of jaguars, though they are less muscular and weaker. They cover a huge range (the largest of any mammal in the Western Hemisphere, aside from humans), found from Canada to Argentina. Yet because of their solitary nature, little is known about the intimate life of the cats.

Footage from camera traps from National Geographic show unique close up images and video of one family unit, a mother and her three kittens, throughout an entire season. The footage reveals how the mother cares for her young and the close bonds that they appear to have. Mountain lions commonly mate from December to March, although they are able to at any time during the year. Females usually give birth to 2-4 offspring. As you can see in the video, the mother nurses the kittens for two months, after which she then begins to teach them to hunt with her. The female raises her young alone, though the video shows surprising footage of a male mountain lion entering the frame to share a meal with the family. This is unique because sometimes males have been known to kill kittens so as to enhance a females to go into heat again.

Unfortunately, by the end of the video two of the three kittens have died, one killed by wolves and another by a trophy hunter. These obstacles are just some of the factors threatening mountain lions; habitat loss, harsh winters, and retaliation for eating the livestock from ranchers also make surviving as a mountain lion challenging.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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