North American Cougar (Puma Concolor)

Physical Description

       The cougar, which is also known as a mountain lion, is the largest cat found in British Columbia. The two smaller cats are the lynx and the bobcat. Fully grown cougars can be larger than German Shepards. Males are 60-80kg, and have been seen over 100kg. Cougars are typically a grey brown colour with compact feline facial features with long whiskers, they also have a long, thick, and not bushy tail that is one third their overall length. Cougar kittens are spotted to help keep them more camouflaged when they are younger. 


       Being the largest cat in British Columbia, cougars historically had the largest distribution of North American mammals from the Yukon all the way to Argentina, however their range has diminished to shooting and agricultural expansions into their habitat. Cougars have been found across British Columbia, but the areas where they are seen more often is Vancouver Island, and the southern interior of British Columbia. Cougar’s habitat is depicted by the ungulate species in the area. They are mostly found with ungulate movements which are in forested mountains and valleys. In winter they are not adapted to snow, so they avoided areas with deep snow. Rocky areas and thick brush is used by the cougar for hunting. 

       The cougar is strictly carnivorous, meaning that it only consumes meat. Their primary prey is deer, but they also hunt other ungulates like young moose and elk. Cougars are not strictly ungulate feeders, they will hunt other small mammals like rabbits, squirrels, even porcupine on occasion. The average amount of ungulates taken by one cougar in a given year is 48 ungulates and the cougar will feed on an ungulate for up to three weeks, and even more if the kill is a large one. The way a cougar hunts its prey is through silent stalking. It will silently stalk its prey through brush and other sorts of cover, then when it is close enough it will take powerful strides and leap onto the back of their prey and deliver a killing bite at the base of the skull that will break the prey’s neck. After killing the prey, the cougar will drag the carcass and stash it under leafs, dirt, and snow until they are finished with it. 

Human Interactions


       Unlike other animals the pelt of a cougar is not especially soft or thick. The primary value of cougars for humans is that it is a trophy animal to hunt, it also can reduce the depredation of cougars on other animals and livestock. Conversely cougars have also been praised for keeping ungulate populations in check where there are high amounts of ungulates. Cougars have also been caught and used as attractions in zoos. 

                Negative interactions

       Cougars, although are a secretive animal, have been known to attack humans. They see young adults and children as optimal targets, and it is very important to keep aware of your surroundings when you are outside in the front country or backcountry. Along with humans they may also depredate on livestock.

For further information on what to do when a cougar encounter occurs or how to prevent them, follow the links to the British Columbia’s staying safe around wildlife webpage and wild safe BC.


BC Wildsafe Cougar [Internet]. 2014. Kamloops BC: Wildsafe BC; [Cited 2017 Jan 11]. Available from

Hatler DF, Nagorsen DW, Beal AM. 2008. Carnivores of British Columbia. British Columbia. Royal BC Museum. 407 p.

Puma concolor cougar [Internet]. 2003. Michigan: University of Michigan; [Cited 2017 Jan 11]. Available from

Photo at top of Page, taken from (2014)