Monday, January 14, 2013

Interesting Facts About the Cougar

I thought I'd share some interesting facts I've learned from writing my Cougar Falls series about shapeshifters. Believe it or not, there is research involved. I need to know how certain animals react in the wild, and what they are and are not capable of. For my current work in progress, I'm dealing with cougars.
Some interesting cougar facts:
  • There are many names for the cougar. Cougar, panther, mountain lion, catamount, puma.
  • The cougar is the largest of the small cats, and the fourth largest cat.
  • The cougar cannot roar, as it lacks the specialized larynx and hyoid apparatus of Panthera.* It does however chirp, yowl, hiss, screech, growl, and whistle.
  • Male cougars can live from 10-12 years in the wild, and females longer.
  • Their coats are typically tawny, with variations from silver gray to reddish brown, with lighter patches on their underbody.
  • All black coloring (melanism) in cougars has never been documented. Sightings of black large cats have actually been attributed to jaguars and leopards.
  • Cougars have the large paws and proportionally the largest hind legs in the cat family.** They're amazing sprinters and climbers, but not ones for endurance.
  • It's one of only three cat species native to Canada, and has the longest range of any wild land animal in the Americas, ranging from norther Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes. 
  • The cats are most active from dusk until dawn, making them crepuscular as well as nocturnal.
  • When cougars are born, they have spots but lose them as they grow. They are born blind and typically wean from the mother at three months of life. A litter may consist of anywhere from one to six kittens, but typically two are born at a time.
I could go on and on, but these are just a few of the fascinating facts about cougars I found when researching for By the Tail. I tend to get sidetracked when there's such great material to work from. And now, back to my work in progress. 
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* Weissengruber, GE; G Forstenpointner, G Peters, A K├╝bber-Heiss, and WT Fitch (2002).
** Nowell, K. and Jackson, P (2006) (PDF). Wild Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan.

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