Cougars - known by scores of other names, including mountain lion, puma and panther - are found throughout Utah. The animals range much of North, Central and South America, from Canada to Chile. They live in and adapt to a variety of terrains, from rugged deserts to above the timberline in Utah mountain ranges, as well as in tropical jungles elsewhere.


Large tawny brown-to-gray cats with white cheeks, adult Western cougars average from 100 to 175 pounds; males are larger than females, and size can vary depending upon climate. Average lifespan is 16 to 20 years. They are 40 to 80 inches long, with lengthy tails. Powerful climbers and jumpers, the cats can leap up to 40 feet horizontally or 18 feet vertically.


Cougars in Utah rove as the seasons change, following their principal prey, mule deer, which make up about 80 percent of their diet. The carnivorous cats also feed upon rabbits, elk and other animals. Because of their solitary, reclusive nature - they avoid one another on their home ranges - they've been called "the ghosts of North America." The animals mate every two years, with the females bearing litters of up to five spotted kittens.


Utah regulates cougar hunting. The subject of periodic bounties until 1960, the animal has been protected since 1966.

Sources: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and the Mountain Lion Foundation