Mountain Lion Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

The mountain lion is a stealthy, powerful giant of a cat that lives mainly in the western U.S., as well as Canada and South America. Learn more about this elusive animal.

An Elusive Cat

If you enjoy exploring the woods, you may have the chance to spot animals such as squirrels and deer. But there may also be an animal nearby that keeps itself well hidden: a mountain lion. Also known as a puma or a cougar, this big cat can exist near people but is so elusive that it's rare to see one. Come along as we enter mountain lion territory!

What are Features of a Mountain Lion?

A mountain lion is one of the largest cats native to North America, second only to the jaguar. Much bigger than its cousin the lynx (or bobcat), mountain lions are 6-8 feet long. This means they would be taller than many NBA players if standing up on their hind feet! At the shoulder, the mountain lion stands about 2-3 feet, which is as tall as a Great Dane.

Mountain lion in Yellowstone National Park
mountain lion

The mountain lion is generally tan, although sometimes it's reddish in color, with a light underbelly. Its long black-tipped tail is a trademark feature. Its face is striking, with black markings as though someone painted them on. Its pointed ears and long whiskers may remind you of your own cat. And this cat has muscles! Its strong build makes it a very powerful predator, able to take down large animals such as elk.

A large, lounging lion
mountain lion

What Do Mountain Lions Eat?

Mountain lions are voracious carnivores, meaning they eat lots of meat! They feast mainly on deer and elk. However, mountain lions will eat all sorts of other animals they come across, including raccoons, rabbits, antelope and turkey. Sometimes mountain lions will even attack livestock such as cows and sheep.

How Do Mountain Lions Hunt?

Ever try to sneak up on someone without them knowing? Mountain lions are experts at this! They are extremely stealthy hunters for their size. Mountain lions can usually attack their prey before even being noticed. How do they do it?

First, mountain lions are most active at the same time as deer and elk, at dawn and dusk. It may be darker at this time of day, but that's no problem for the lion, who has outstanding night vision, as well as excellent hearing. Like many cats, mountain lions are also expert climbers. A mountain lion will often sit in a tree, ready to pounce swiftly when prey comes near.

Mountain lion waiting to ambush prey
mountain lion in tree

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