Mountain lions are among nature’s deadliest predators. When it comes to the lower 48 states, they are second only to wolves. Habitat loss and suburban sprawl have pushed these cats closer to the periphery of the human world, and as a result, closer to the periphery of our thoughts when it comes to danger in the woods…especially those of us who regularly frequent the forest. There is a reason for that. Let’s face it, a 9-foot long, 180-pound creature that could hunt you silently from the shadows without you knowing it was even there, is pretty spooky. Yes, cats do get that big, and yes, they have those capabilities. But there is also a great deal of myth surrounding mountain lions, their capabilities, habitat and biology. We’re going to dispel 5 of the most common ones right now.
Myth 1: Mountain Lions are Different from Cougars
This myth is often perpetuated by the fact that different regions of the United States use one name or another, for THE SAME ANIMAL. Not only are mountain lions and cougars the same, but the fact of the matter is that mountain lions go by more names than any other mammal. Cougars, mountain lions AND pumas are all the same creature.
Myth 2: Mountain Lions Can Jump 25 Feet in the Air
More like 15 feet, but that is still no joke. That is, 15-feet from a dead stand-still. This myth of mountain lions being able to jump 25 to 30 feet is likely the result of someone having seen a cat jump what appeared to be a startling distance up a tree. Mountain lions are capable of bounding up to 40 feet when running, and they can do about 50 mph at a dead sprint.
Myth 3: Mountain Lions Only Hunt at Night
Mountain Lions in parts of the United States that do not also contain wolves or brown bears, are at the top of the food chain. While they do prefer to hunt at dawn and dusk, a hungry lion will hunt whenever he or she pleases. This is particularly true of females, who have a stricter time table and requirement for food intake, given their reproductive cycles. The reason mountain lions tend to hunt at night more often than not, is because their eyesight is actually at its best in the dark.
Myth 4: If You Encounter a Mountain Lion, Play Dead or Remain Calm
This myth is a dangerous one to perpetuate. Mountain lions are not like bears. Playing dead will not help, and while remaining calm may be good, docile behavior is not. If you encounter a lion, make yourself as large as possible by opening your coat, or raising your arms above your head. Be loud. If you are attacked by the cat, fight back like your life depends on it, because it does.