The Case for Cougars

Pumas (also known as mountain lions, cougars, and panthers) are integral to the health of the West’s ecosystems. As a top predator, evidence suggests that pumas are a key species within their ecosystems whose impact is felt far beyond their interaction with prey.

They range across the western United States, generally preferring to live and hunt in habitat that provides ambush opportunities, such as ponderosa parks and red rock canyon country. Wherever there is a deer or elk population, pumas are probably not far away.

Pumas live in expansive “home ranges” because their favorite prey—deer and elk—are spread thinly across the West’s arid landscape. The home range of male cougars often exceeds 100 square miles.

Pumas are secretive. Contact between humans and pumas is quite rare, although more frequent as development shrinks lion habitat in the Southern Rockies.

Because of their reclusive nature, we can only guess how many pumas live in the West. The Colorado Division of Wildlife estimates that up to 3,500 lions inhabit Colorado (though a 10-year scientific study will shed light on this number in the years ahead).

Pumas have only a few offspring (if any) during a year, and kittens face high mortality rates— both factors that contribute to their fragile populations. A mother cat spends 11 to 24 months raising her kittens, yet few cats reach adulthood (even in populations where humans do not hunt them). Thus, lions need protections against over-hunting—especially of females. Equally important to their survival is prevention of continued infringement on their receding habitat.

Sinapu aims to ensure that Colorado and the West are home to a healthy population of pumas—a precious piece of the West’s wild heritage—for generations to come.


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