Cougar - Puma concolor

Brief Natural History

Cougars have historically been found in Alaska and Canada, throughout the United States, and down into multiple countries in South America. As a result of human expansion, cougar populations have declined throughout its historic geographic range. In the 1960s, many were killed as a result of their hunger for livestock. Due to habitat fragmentation contributing to loss of territory and their tendency to be active at twilight, cougars are rarely seen by humans. Although they are solitary animals, female cougars spend 18 to 24 months raising their young and use a variety of vocalizations to interact such as chirps, whistles and mews. According to the Minnesota DNR, cougar populations were never abundant in Minnesota. Minnesota is not even on their current range map; however, there have been verified sightings throughout the state.

Where Do Cougars that need Rescue Come From?

Private owners, roadside zoos, fur farms, and orphaned or injured individuals unable to be rehabilitated are all possible sources of cougars in need. Although there are laws prohibiting the ownership of exotics in many states, every state’s laws are different, although even laws do not prevent some people from attempting to keep these animals.

Conservation Status

Because there is no evidence of any breeding pairs in Minnesota, there is no management plan for the cougar. It is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a species of least concern. However, it is a species of special concern, and is regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Exhibition/Captive Laws

Cougars are a regulated species in Minnesota. It is illegal for any person to own a cougar in the state of Minnesota, unless grandfathered in as of January 1, 2005.

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only Federal law that regulates the treatment of animals used commercially and for research. The law states that it is illegal to transport, purchase, sell, house, care for, or handle warm-blooded wild native and exotic species (excepting birds and certain rats and mice) without the proper permit/license from the USDA. Laws applicable to the private ownership of animals vary by state.

Fun Facts

Cougars have five common names in North America:

  1. Cougar
  2. Catamount
  3. Puma
  4. Mountain lion
  5. Panther

Some vocalizations of the cougar include hisses and spits when threatened, and the caterwaul during mating, which can sometimes be mistaken for a woman screaming.