Cougar leaping fence

Cougars are built for short-term speed, agil­ity and strength. Their skelet­al struc­ture is held to­geth­er by muscle more than lig­a­ments, which makes them in­cred­ibly flexible.

Much of the big cat’s strength is found in their power­ful rear legs, which can pro­pel them five metres straight up from a stand­still and 14 metres ho­ri­zont­ally onto the back of their prey.

To view an ex­ample of a cou­gar ef­fort­less jump­ing, watch this short trail cam­era clip. Note how the cou­gar by­passes the lower part of the fence to eas­ily bound over as two metre high section.


Can you see this cougar peeking over the backyard fence? Jumping over it would be as easy as for the big cat as blinking an eye.
Can you see this cou­gar peek­ing over the back­yard fence? Jumping over it would be as easy as for the big cat as blink­ing an eye.


Wild female cougar adopts orphaned cubs

Cougar cubs lead pre­cari­ous lives. Other pred­at­ors – even male cou­gars — prey on them. They can also be­come sick or get in­jured. But per­haps the worst thing that can hap­pen is los­ing their mom.

This three-week old cougar kitten was photographed in southern California by Eric York while working for UC Davis Wildlife Health Center.
This three-week old cou­gar kit­ten was pho­to­graphed in south­ern California by Eric York while work­ing for UC Davis Wildlife Health Center.

Most young adult cou­gars head out on their own when they’re 18-months to two-years old. By that time they have rudi­ment­ary hunt­ing skills and are usu­ally large enough to take down prey on their own. Even then some young cou­gars don’t survive.

But if mom is shot by a hunter, hit by a car or killed tak­ing down prey when her cubs are young­er than 18-months old, their chances of sur­viv­al de­crease dramatically.

Cougars are se­cret­ive car­ni­vores so much about their day-to-day lives and re­la­tion­ships with each oth­er re­mains un­known. So it was a real sur­prise when re­search­ers with Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project in Jackson Hole, Wyoming dis­covered a fe­male cou­gar with young of her own had ad­op­ted three orphaned cubs.

Teton Cougar Project dir­ect­or, Howard Quigley, tells the story in New Insight into Cougar Behaviour.


Cougars are strong…smart too

Cougars are ex­quis­itely built killing ma­chines cap­able of tak­ing down an an­im­al sev­en times their size. But this strength can’t be fully ap­pre­ci­ated un­less witnessed.

A 2001 video taken in New Mexico shows a 70-kilo­gram (150-pound) cou­gar tack­ling a 120-kilogrom (265-pound) mule deer.maxablebcr2.jpg

The strength of the cou­gar as it takes down this deer is in­cred­ible. Even be­ing kicked re­peatedly in the head by sharp hooves does not per­suade the cat to let go. And when its ini­tial at­tempts to kill the deer don’t work, the cou­gar em­ploys a new strategy.

Don’t for­get to watch the tip of the cougar’s tail.