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Cuddly Kitty

The cougar (Puma concolor), also puma, mountain lion, or panther, is a mammal of the Felidae family, native to the Americas. This large, solitary cat has the greatest range of any wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, extending from Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes of South America. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in every major New World habitat type. It is the second heaviest cat in the New World, after the jaguar, and the fourth heaviest in the world, after the tiger, lion, and jaguar, although it is most closely related to smaller felines.

 

A capable stalk-and-ambush predator, the cougar pursues a wide variety of prey. Primary food sources include ungulates such as deer and bighorn sheep, as well as domestic cattle, horses, and sheep, particularly in the northern part of its range, but it hunts species as small as insects and rodents. It prefers habitats with dense underbrush and rocky areas for stalking, but it can live in open areas. Cougars are known to kill at least one deer sized animal per week, more in warmer climates; unlike bears, they do not like spoiled meat.

 

The cougar is territorial and persists at low population densities. Individual territory sizes depend on terrain, vegetation, and abundance of prey. While it is a large predator, it is not always the dominant species in its range, as when it competes for prey with animals such as the gray wolf. It is a reclusive cat and usually avoids people. Attacks on humans remain rare, despite a recent increase in frequency.

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Taken on October 14, 2007