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A mighty, yet elusive hunter whose population spans a wide range, the cougar is a magnificent creature.

Puma concolor

Cougar. Photo: WDFW
Cougar. Photo: WDFW

The cougar (also known as mountain lion or puma) is the largest wildcat native to North America and is a fairly common, if reclusive, resident of Washington state. 

Cougars are a key predator for healthy, resilient wild ecosystems in North America and an important part of the predator-prey cycle. 

Our work for cougar conservation 

Cougars are an important part of our Northwest natural heritage. Yet they can also be the source of conflict. Cougars are very effective hunters, and sometimes individual cougars will depredate on sheep, calves and other livestock or pets. When high cougar populations are combined with habitat loss or other factors, cougars can have negative impacts on the health of deer, elk and other prey populations. 

It's important to conserve healthy populations of cougars and other native predators, while also stewarding those populations in a responsible way that seeks to avoid impacts on other sensitive wildlife populations and local communities. Conservation Northwest supports science-based wildlife management of cougars. We're not anti-hunting, but we object to levels of hunting that imperil cougar populations or diminish their critical ecological role.

Click here to see some more awesome cougar footage from our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Program!

More about cougars

  • Cougars very rarely threaten or attack humans, but they are curious cats and very infrequently they are documented following hikers or mountain bikers within their territory. Knowing mountain lion behavior provides the best protection when adventuring in the wild. Hiking in groups, making lots of noise and carrying bear spray can all help reduce or resolve conflicts with cougars. 
  • As predators and regulators of wildlife populations, cougars are important to the health of our ecosystems. Obligate carnivores, cougars eat porcupine in addition to deer, skunk, badger, rabbits and many other animals.

  • A solitary, elusive hunter with wide ranging habitat from Canada to Costa Rica, the cougar, or mountain lion, is territorial and largely avoids contact with humankind. Heavy trapping and hunting of cougars and loss of habitat to development has reduced close kin of cougars to the brink of extinction worldwide. Three subspecies of the cougar (the Eastern cougar, Florida panther, and Costa Rican cougar) were listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. 
  • The cougar has very close genetic ties to the domestic cat.
    Cougar kitten. Photo: WDFW
    Cougar kitten. Photo: WDFW
  • Cougars produce a variety of sounds but are incapable of roaring like a lion. They are known to mew, hiss, and growl, and females emit a long, piercing scream, especially during mating season.
  • Cougars are highly adaptable and dwell in a variety of habitats, from forests to mountains to swampland.
  • Puma, catamount, mountain lion and ghost cat are just a couple of names for the cougar.
  • Female cougars are dedicated mothers, and are either pregnant or raising dependent cubs (sometimes for two years or more) for the majority of their lives.
  • Documentary: The Secret Life of Mountain Lions
  • More on cougars from WDFW

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