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Location: Big Cats

Puma (Profelis concolor)

Puma (Profelis concolor)
America's allrounder

Many animal species are adapted to quite narrow habitats providing certain living conditions. This is not different concerning cats: Cheetahs, eg., are animals which are able to survive only in savannas and semi-deserts, while Tigers are "forest creatures", which prefer habitats with a lot of trees and much water. But on the other hand there are also species, which are real allrounders, inhabiting all kinds of habitats in many subspecies. The most prominent examples are the Leopard in Africa and Asia and its American counterpart - the Puma.

With the exception of Alaska there was hardly any region in North and South America, which wasn't inhabited by the Puma. Rainforests suited the Puma as well as savannas and semi-deserts, and river basins served as its home as well as high mountain regions. Unfortunatelly one has to use the past tense, since the Puma doesn't live in many of these regions nowadays due to hunting and colonization of its former distribution range by man. Cattle breeders looked at the Puma as a permanent danger to their herds and fought it wherever they could. But Pumas are no direct danger to humans. There is no serious report of a Puma attack on man, though old movies try to pretend the opposite. In contrast to the Leopard, the Puma does't like to be near human settlements - a close coexistence of humans and Pumas isn't possible.

According to its wide distribution there are many subspecies of the Puma, showing a wide variability. The northernmost and southernmost subspecies, the Pumas of Canada and Patagonia, are by far the largest ones. A Puma inhabiting these regions might reach a weight of 110 kg. The Pumas of Central America and the northern part of South America are much smaller; they don't even reach half that weight. There is a general rule concerning animals of one species with a wide distribution range: The animals inhabiting the colder regions of the range are larger than the animals inhabiting the warmer regions. The relation between body mass and body surface increases with the size of an animal, resulting in the effect, that the larger an animal is the more capable it is to preserve body heat, which isn't lost that easily through the body surface. Correspondingly smaller animals inhabiting warmer regions are more capable of preventing overheating by emitting heat through their relativly large body surfaces. There are also a lot of differences among Pumas concerning the colour of the fur and the body proportions. The colour of adult Pumas extends from silver-grey in the north and the south to red-brown near the equator.

Even concerning its names the Puma is a very varied cat: Couguar and Mountain lion are the most common ones. But Pumas are not closely related to Lions, except that both species belong to the cat family. Pumas are the largest members of the genus Profelis, the so called Golden cats. Their relatives are the Asiatic golden cat, the African tigercat, Temminck's cat and the Caracal. Closely related to Golden cats are lynxes like the European lynx. Another relative is the Snow leopard or Ounce, which inhabits high mountain regions in Asia.

Pumas live solitary in territories, which are up to 50 squarekilometres large. It seems that Pumas don't defend their territories - they prefer not crossing each other's ways. Females give birth to two to four pups, which are weaned at an age of about half a year. But they stay with their mother for a longer period and learn how to hunt for all kinds of prey, especially ground living birds and mammals up to the size of a deer. Pumas are sexual mature at an age of one and a half or two years and might reach a maximum age of 18 years.

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