They call him “the killer!” And yet, by many, he is considered a coward. However, his choice to elude a pack of hounds and a gun-bearing hunter does not necessarily condemn him as cowardly. If such were the case, most wild animals could be classified as such.
Cougar, panther, catamount, or just plain lion, for pure unadulterated violence is equaled by few. True, he is a killer, many times taking advantage of domestic animals, but unless there is a tremendous scarcity of wild game, the hunter has little to fear from the cougar. Generally, where the cougar is abundant, so is his chief form of food, the deer family.
The cougar’s home is the wild, broken Rocky Mountain regions of the United States and Mexico, from the southern tip of South America to British Columbia. Some may also be found in Florida and the great swamplands of Georgia’s dreaded Okefenokee. East of the Mississippi a scattered number can be found in Northern New York, New England, and Eastern Canada.
Public conception regarding the size of the mountain lion is, to say the least, overwhelming. The cat will reach a tremendous size, but few rarely exceed the 150-pound mark and an overall length of eight feet. The long, black-tipped tail usually accounts for nearly half of the length, resulting in a run-away imagination for the average hunter.
These measurements pertain only to the normal run of cats. Certain individuals may heft considerably more, some as much as 200 pounds. One Arizona specimen went to a record-breaking 276 pounds!
The cougar kills with great artistry. Silently and swiftly he moves through the forest, over the crips leaves with not the faintest sound. From a crouch, he surges forward with an unrestrained burst of speed. The prey is slow, comparatively speaking, and falls before the vicious onslaught. Slashing claws like a sudden flash of thunder rake viciously for nose and neck.
It is rare indeed that the cougar kills for enjoyment. There are instances where individuals will take advantage of snow-bound deer in the high country and run amuck, but these are few and far between. We say that he is known for his meaningness, but even this does not compare with the maliciousness of the wolverine.
Of all, we know of the cougar his celebrated scream is the most highly publicized. Many weird and assorted legends have emerged from his fiendish outcries. In the pioneer days, it held the ring of terror and many a man would not dare venture into the realms of the wilderness after sundown for fear it would be their last! How does it sound, you ask? Those who have actually heard the cry of the panther maintain it closely resembles that of a terrified infant.
But what is this cougar, this enormous cat? Is he vermin—not worthy of the hunt? In most states, he is regarded so, but I dare say you would have a difficult time convincing an avid lion hunter that he is anything short of “game” of the highest caliber.
The range of this great feline is the largest of any North American big game. Within this boundary, there are thirty known subspecies. Eleven of these are within the borders of the United States and Canada. Five more can be marked up to Central America, Mexico, and 14 in South America. Popular belief that no animal is more vicious than members of the cat family may very well be justified. The vicious trait is often observed in the common house cat when cornered in a fang and claw struggle with the family pooch. With both equal in size, the cat would no doubt trim the dog to a fare-the-well.
Arizona’s Rimrock country considered the country’s most productive lion territory, yields a tremendous number of big cats all year round. Through its jagged terrain, the Redbone’s and Blueticks romp and bawl their cry of the chase. Over almost impassable terrain the cougar leads the hounds with surprising agility to a tree or a rock and waits for the coming of the hunter. From atop his elevated perch, he spits his savage defiance at the hounds who annoy with their bolstering cries of “treed.”
With his body of tawny hue, the cougar is a magnificent beast. The belly and insides of the legs are a dull while and sometimes possess a distinct tinge of red, depending on the locality. The head is usually somewhat lighter in color than the body with a light cast about the mouth, chin, and cheeks. There is also another color referred to as the “Blue Coat.” This one is distinctively gray in appearance.
The young of the cougar are donned with spots, varying from light to dark brown, some almost black. Their markings are prominent until the cubs reach the age of about six months. One cub was known to possess no spots at all — an extremely rare case. The inside of the ears are identical in tone to the belly; the outsides are dark brown to nearly black.