An apex predator found around the state of Colorado, mountain lions are seldom seen, but often a topic of conversation. Here are a few things you should know about this amazing creature.
1. There are an estimated 3,000 to 7,000 mountain lions in Colorado.
Due to secretive nature typical of a mountain lion, their numbers can be difficult to track. Most recent data released by Colorado Parks and Wildlife indicates that there may be as many as 7,000 in Colorado. That’s more than 6 per 100 square miles making up nearly a quarter of the country’s lion population.
2. Mountain lion attacks on humans are rare.
Mountain lions are typically skittish animals when it comes to humans, often opting to avoid contact altogether. That being said, as development continues to move into once-wild terrain around Colorado, mountain lions are being seen more frequently in towns and cities. As mountain lions get bolder, one would assume that the risk of attack will also increase.
When attacks do occur, lions generally target small humans that are alone. A couple notable mountain lion attacks in Colorado include a 1997 case in which a 10-year-old boy was killed while hiking ahead of his family in Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as a 2016 incident in which a mother fought a mountain lion off of her 5-year-old son. That boy survived.
3. Mountain lions hunt big game.
Typically most active during dusk and dawn, the staple of a mountain lion’s diet is deer. They’ll also eat elk, livestock, and smaller mammals, as well as domestic animals including cats and dogs.
Lions tend to hunt in a similar fashion to most cats, which involves stalking and ambush. They use their powerful bite to break the neck of their prey.
4. Mountain lions can have a massive range.
Typically loners, the territory range of a mountain lion can be anywhere from 10 miles to 370 miles. A key factor in determining the size of the range is availability of food. Once a lion claims its territory, it marks it’s zone with piles of dirt and sticks to ward off other big cats.
5. Mountain lions are big.
Mountain lions can exceed 8 feet in length, weighing an average of 150 pounds. The largest of mountain lions can weigh more than 200 pounds. As with many species, male mountain lions tend to be larger than females. How’s that compare to a lion you’d find in Africa? The largest of those can reach over 9 feet in length and weigh more than 500 pounds.
6. Mountain lions are extremely athletic.
The largest wildcat in North America, mountain lions are known for their agility and jumping ability. They can jump as high as 15 feet and as far as 40 feet. This is one reason why they’re so effective at hunting.
Here’s a video of a mountain lion jumping across a gorge:
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