Whether you call them cougars, painters, pumas, panthers, catamounts, etc., one thing is clear: mountain lions have the most names in the animal kingdom. Other names include red tiger, mountain screamer, American lion, Mexican lion, etc. More than just their over 40 names, this animal is a remarkable predator with other fascinating characteristics. For example, mountain lions (Puma concolor) can run up to 50 miles per hour. They are also excellent jumpers and can jump up to 18 feet high (about the height of a standard two-story building).
Unfortunately, tracking a mountain lion may not be as easy as trailing other animals because they don’t leave claw marks. That’s because they retract their claws perfectly well as they move. However, one can determine their presence by identifying their poop.
Do you wish to know how? Then come right this way; we’re eager to let you in on all the juicy details.
How to Identify a Mountain Lion’s Poop
A mountain lion’s scat can provide you with a lot of information. It can tell you what they’ve been eating, how healthy they are, if they’re close by, etc. However, the first step to getting all that knowledge is to recognize their scat when you see it. So, what does a mountain lion’s feces look like?
Mountain lion poop appears “ropey”. It looks like a cord with segments (although it can also be a solid piece) and can be as short as 5 inches and as long as 9.5 inches. A mountain lion’s scat is also up to 1 inch wide (or more). The end of the poop may be blunt or pointy like a tail.
Another way to determine a mountain lion’s poop is to see what particles remain in it. While one isn’t likely to find berry seeds or fruits in a panther’s scat, they may discover hair, bone fragments, or bits of grass. A mountain lion’s scat can come out in brown, black, or grayish-white colors, which are typical reflections of its constituents and age.
Other signs to watch out for when examining a puma’s poop include scrapes and smell. You’ll likely find scrape marks around a mountain lion’s scat because male painters love to heap dirt or soil before peeing or excreting on it. This serves as a marker for other cats. Like other cats, male and female panthers may also attempt to cover their poop to mask/cover its pungent smell and avoid predators.
Since mountain lions are top predators, they don’t have any real natural predators, even though grizzly bears can be a threat, especially when they’re young. Again, there’s the concern that humans will hunt them down.
Where Do Mountain Lions Poop?
Mountain lions (especially the males) love to poop in central locations. As such, it’s not unlikely to find a cougar‘s poop in logs, rocks, ridgelines, the middle of dirt roads, etc. As solitary and territorial animals, they love to mark their area with feces.
If mountain lions want to use their poop as scent markers, they’ll typically leave it on a scratch pile. Sometimes, they do this to reduce the risk of other animals trespassing or to establish their dominance. This behavior may also be to increase their chances of mating/breeding with the females close by.
What Do Mountain Lions Eat?
Like other cats, panthers are obligate carnivores. Mountain lions are typically opportunistic hunters and will prey on animals as they come their way. They can eat larger predators and have a long list of prey. These include deer, beavers, coyotes, elk, raccoons, antelopes, black bears, feral horses, and feral hogs. Panthers also feed on porcupines, rabbits, mice, moose, bighorn sheep, badgers, birds, marmots, insects, caribou, and squirrels.
As opportunistic hunters, mountain lions prefer to hide and ambush their prey instead of tracking and hunting them. They kill their prey by biting their spinal cords. Cougars can eat up to 30 pounds of meat in a meal. However, they may also save their meals for later by burying them and eating them over the stretch of two weeks.
A panther cub’s first food for up to 7 weeks is its mother’s milk. After weaning, they start eating meat their mothers bring to them. Mountain lion cubs start hunting on their own (mainly rabbits) at about four to six months old. The bigger/faster they grow, the more they can hunt larger animals. When they mature fully, they start hunting and eating elk, deer, etc.
Mountain Lion Poop vs. Bobcat Poop
Bobcats and cougars make the list of North America’s wildcat species, along with lynx, jaguars, ocelots, and jaguarundis. As relatives, mountain lions and bobcats share similar physical and behavioral characteristics, including coloration and excellent swimming capabilities. They prey on similar smaller animals like rabbits, mice, and squirrels and are equally solitary/territorial animals.
However, they also have striking differences, especially in size, weight, and poop. Although a bobcat’s scat is segmented like a mountain lion’s, it has a tubular shape. Bobcat poop may also be shorter than mountain lion’s scat. Note that bobcats also attempt to cover their scat and, like mountain lions, have traces of hair and bones in their poop.
Mountain Lion Poop vs. Coyote Poop
Another animal a mountain lion shares similarities with is the coyote. They look alike so much that one may mistake a cougar for a coyote and vice-versa. However, mountain lions are significantly larger than coyotes. While mountain lions have a height of about 3 feet at shoulder level, coyotes typically reach only 2.2 feet. Again, cougars weigh up to 130 pounds, while the heaviest coyotes will weigh around 45 pounds. So, in a fight between both animals, a mountain lion is more likely to win.
Coyote poop is quite easy to identify. They are tubular and look like various pieces knotted into a rope. Like mountain lions, they leave their scat in prominent locations.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Evgeny555
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