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closeup of a puma's face
Captive Florida panther. Captive Florida panther. © Mark Conlin courtesy of Tallahassee Natural History Museum

Animals We Protect

Puma

Also known as a cougar or mountain lion, the puma stalks a wide range of habitats from Canada to South America.

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Florida Panther At Babcock Ranch, this captive animal resides at the ranch as part of an educational exhibit for schools and tourists. © Carlton Ward Jr.

Puma Fast Facts

Class: Mammalia

Scientific name: Puma

Conservation status: Varies by region

Lifespan: 12 years

Length: Male: 7.9 feet (2.4 m); Female: 6.7 feet (2.0 m)

Meet the Puma

Also known as a cougar or mountain lion, the puma stalks a wide range of habitats from Canada to South America. Its coloration is as variable as its habitat, though tawny and grayish brown are most common. Large adults may weigh up to 220 pounds. A solitary creature, each mountain lion lives in a defined territory. Males sometimes allow females to overlap with their territories, but never other males. 

Hunting in early mornings and evenings, the puma’s main prey is deer, though it also hunts rodents, hares and sometimes domestic livestock as well. It is a stealthy hunter—stalking its prey, then leaping as far as 20 feet to kill the animal with a powerful bite to the nape of the neck.

Pumas typically mate for a season, sometimes longer, with females bearing 2-4 young in a den among rocks or dense vegetation after a gestation of 92-96 days. They often use the same den several years in a row. In the mountain lion’s northern range, young are born in summer, but they can be born year round in the tropics. Young begin eating solid food at six or seven weeks and stay with the mother for up to two years. 

GHOST CAT: THE FLORIDA PANTHER AND CONSERVATION National Geographic photographer Carlton Ward Jr. shares his photographic journey through Florida's panther territory, and our Executive Director Temperince Morgan shares how we're working to protect Florida panther habitat.

Protecting the Puma

Once common, the puma is extirpated in much of its American range, especially in the eastern United States. Of particular concern are Florida panthers—only 100–200 remain in the wild. The main threats to the species have been loss of prey and habitat and intentional persecution. It is estimated that less than 50,000 mature breeding mountain lions remain globally.

The IUCN lists the mountain lion as Near Threatened, and the Florida subspecies as Critically Endangered.

When the Florida panther was included in the Endangered Species Act in 1973, there were fewer than three dozen cats remaining in the wild. Now, there are up to 200, finally roaming safely on expanded territory protected by The Nature Conservancy. In 2017, the Conservancy announced the protection of Cypress Creek Grove, the first protected tract on the northern bank of the Caloosahatchee River in the heart of the panther corridor. This important location has been safeguarded from future development.

To learn more about the Florida panther, check out the stories below: