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The puma (Felis concolor) takes its name from the Quechua language and is also known as cougar, mountain lion, or panther. Solitary and territorial, the puma is present in all types of habitat in Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, the United States, and Venezuela. Its coloring is yellow-brown above and pale underneath. The length of its head and body ranges from 40 to 64 inches, with a tail up to 32 inches; it can weigh up to 225 pounds. Females are usually smaller.

After a gestation period of ninety to ninety-six days, usually two or three (or as many as six) cubs are born with a speckled coat and a ringed tail. These markings disappear with time. In the adults, only black markings remain on the head and near the mouth.

Pumas are expert hunters, preying on most species of mammals, especially deer. Active both day and night, they have become nocturnal in areas inhabited by humans, their sole enemy. Once extensively hunted, pumas are strictly protected throughout most of their range.

In the Andes the feline deity appeared as early as 850 bce and has been venerated by various mountain and coastal cultures. The Moche painted the puma on their ceramics, most certainly considering it a deity. The Inca worshiped the puma, and it was noted by Manuel Chávez Ballón during the twentieth century that their imperial capital had been constructed in the shape of a puma, although the actual form is not perfectly delineated. Among the Nahua of Central Mexico, the puma has been associated with Mixcoatl. In the United States, the Winnebago, Cheyenne, and Apache peoples have held the puma or cougar in high metaphysical esteem.

Previously among the largest and most populous American mammals, pumas have declined steadily in number due to overhunting, reduced deer populations (its primary food source), and human development. The Florida, Central American, and eastern North American subspecies are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which denotes them as threatened with extinction. As such, trade in specimens of these subspecies is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Additionally, the Mexican, Mayan, and Missoula subspecies are listed in Appendix II, indicating that they are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but that trade in them must be controlled.


Luigi Boitani and Stefania Bartoli, Simon and Schuster's Guide to Mammals (1982), p. 310.

Erwin Patzelt, Fauna del Ecuador (1989), pp. 83-84.

Additional Bibliography

CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). 2001. United Nations Environment Programme. Available from http://www.cites.org/.

Gasparini, Graziano, and Luise Margolies. Inca Architecture. Translated by Patricia J. Lyon. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.

                                          RaÚl CucalÓn

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puma (mountain lion, cougar) Large cat found in mountains, forests, swamps and jungles of the Americas. It has a small, round head, erect ears and a heavy tail. The coat is tawny with dark brown on the ears, nose and tail; the underparts are white. It preys mainly on deer and small animals. Length: to 2.3m (7.5ft), including the tail; height: to 75cm (30in) at the shoulder. Family Felidae; species Felis concolor.

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pu·ma / ˈp(y)oōmə/ • n. another term for cougar.

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puma XVIII. — Sp. — Quechua.

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