Mountain Lion – Puma concolor
Mountain lions, as they’re commonly called in the West, are also known as cougars, pumas, and panthers. Males commonly weigh 110 – 232 pounds, while females range from 79 – 132 pounds, though Texas cats typically weigh at the lower end of the range. Very nimble climbers and great jumpers, they can leap 30 feet and can spring 15 feet vertically. Ranges for males are typically 75 – 150 square miles, though some have exceeded 700 square miles. Females, on the other hand, have a much smaller range of 24 – 50 square miles. Females’ habitats often overlap habitat of their mothers.
There are two populations of mountain lions in Texas, in west and in south Texas. The former is considered to be a stable population, while the latter is thought to be unstable. West Texas mountain lions see an influx of cats from Mexico and New Mexico, thus explaining their relative stability in spite of predator control practices. However, the south Texas lion is affected greatly by human encroachment, including habitat disruption caused by fracking. They are distanced from the west Texas cats and are considered a fragmented population. The actual number of these cats in Texas is unknown.
In Texas, they are classified as non-game animals with no protection, even though they are categorized as imperiled by Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Texas Conservation Action Plan.
Extirpated from the East by predator control programs in the past and largely confined to the western part of the country, they are beginning to reclaim prior range and are moving eastward throughout the country as they follow their prey species. Sightings beyond west and south Texas confirm this movement in our state.
Key points about mountain lions
- Second largest cat in the Americas
- Mostly widely occurring terrestrial mammal in Western Hemisphere
- Historic range covered the entire US, much of Canada, and all of South America
- Black panther is a myth
- Texas has two mountain lion populations