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Warning: Contains details that may be too graphic for some cat lovers.

Today's New York Times has an article titled Man who Strangled Cougar Cited a Lesson from His Cat. See He's no Chuck Norris but he did kill a mountain lion.

According to this story, given at a news conference on Thursday (02/14), in the presence of Colorado wildlife officials, the cougar was "perhaps 50 pounds". Mr. Kauffman, the runner, is 5 foot 10 inches and 150 pounds. He said he feared all through the encounter that the young cougar's "mother would come along and end the fight".

Wildlife officials said "they trapped two other young mountain lions....after Mr. Kauffman was ambushed and both appeared to have been hungry."

Mr. Kauffman killed the young cat with two legs, one knee on the cat's rear legs and the other foot on the cat's neck, plus one hand, the wrist of the other hand being firmly gripped in the cat's jaws throughout.

My question: At what age do cougars live independently of their mothers, and is a 50 pound young cougar likely to be successful enough as a hunter to survive independently? (A picture of a cougar of this age/weight would be most welcome, but is not necessary to satisfactorily answer this question.)

One can't help but speculate that the three juvenile cougars were litter-mates and that their mother might have been dead.

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It probably was, as 50 lbs is way beyond the size at which they are weaned. However, mountain lion cubs will stay with the mom for up to 18 months.

Female cougars probably begin leading their kittens to kills as early as 7 to 8 weeks. The mother also carries meat to her young from kills until weaning age (2 to 3 months), at which point the cubs weigh in at between 7 and 9 pounds. As the kittens grow older, the mother will leave them at kills, frequently for days at a time, while she goes in search of the next prey.(6) As the kittens grow and become stronger, the mother will range farther in search of prey.

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As they grow stronger and more skilled at stalking, kittens will separate from their mother for days at a time and hunt on their own. This growing independence is a precursor to young lions leaving their mother and going in search their own home range.

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Kittens can survive on their own as early as 6 months, such as when the mother is killed or dies of natural causes, but this appears to be rare. Typically, the young cougars will remain with their mother for 12 to 18 months. This allows them to hone their hunting skills and gives them time to develop their killing bite.

Source

So it's certainly possible for them to be on their own at the time and still be traveling with the mother mountain lion.

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