Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park: Everything You Need to Know

Written by August Buck
Published: June 3, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/gatito33
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While they may not be the most social animal in the world, there are indeed mountain lions in Yellowstone National Park. Also known as cougars or pumas, mountain lions live throughout forested regions of the United States- but have you ever seen one? Is it possible to see a cougar in Yellowstone, especially if you’ve never seen one in the wild before?

In this article, we will go over everything you need to know about mountain lions in Yellowstone, including what times of day they are most active and if it is possible to view them anywhere in the park. We will also go over proper etiquette regarding wildlife in Yellowstone and whether or not cougars are frequently seen. Let’s get started and talk about mountain lions in this beautiful National Park now!

Key Information About Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park

Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park
Cougars have a wide range of territory that they occupy, with many disputes ending in displaced male mountain lions outside of Yellowstone regions.

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Yellowstone National ParkMountain Lion Facts
Number in the Park30-45
Average Size85-170 pounds; 6-8 feet long
Mating SeasonFebruary-May, with kittens born in June-September
DietElk, deer, squirrels, marmots
Active TimesDaylight hours, but sometimes after dark as well
Best Viewing LocationsNorthern Range, though rarely seen anywhere

How Many Mountain Lions Live in Yellowstone National Park?

Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park
It is especially interesting to note that the longer a cougar lives in Yellowstone, the more authority it has within the species.

Scott E Read/Shutterstock.com

It is impossible to know just how many mountain lions live in Yellowstone National Park, for a number of reasons. These animals are highly elusive and secretive, making them difficult to track. Additionally, cougars have a wide range of territory that they occupy, with many disputes ending in displaced male mountain lions outside of Yellowstone regions.

However, despite all of these things in mind, Yellowstone Park Rangers have integrated a number of modern tracking devices throughout the park, to better track elusive species such as the mountain lion. Because of this, they estimate that there are 30-45 cougars living in Yellowstone at any given time, across a number of ages and genders.

It is especially interesting to note that the longer a cougar lives in Yellowstone, the more authority it has within the species. For example, some of the oldest male mountain lions living in the National Park occupy the largest territories and father most of the baby cougars born, season after season. 

How Large are Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park?

Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park
Always maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from any carnivore in Yellowstone National Park, including mountain lions!

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Mountain lions range in size, depending on gender, with females being smaller than males. They reach an average of 85-170 pounds and a length of 6-8 feet, tail included. Within the confines of the park, where hunting of cougars or any other animal is not permitted, they reach average ages of 8-15 years old, depending on size and gender.

When are Mountain Lions Most Active in Yellowstone National Park?

Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park
Mountain lions are extremely secretive and solitary, which is why Yellowstone National Park Rangers utilize remote cameras and advanced tracking equipment in order to learn anything about them!

Susanne Pommer/Shutterstock.com

Mountain lions are most active throughout the daytime, particularly at dawn and dusk. This is because dawn and dusk are when their preferred prey is most active, namely deer and elk. A cougar will hunt and kill a deer or elk and feed upon its carcass for nearly 5 days, depending on the size. However, most cougar kills end up in the mouths of grizzly bears or wolves, given that these animals remain apex predators over the average mountain lion.

Despite this time of day being an extremely active time for cougars, it is unlikely that you will view one during your time in the park. This is because mountain lions are extremely secretive and solitary, which is why Yellowstone National Park Rangers utilize remote cameras and advanced tracking equipment in order to learn anything about them!

In terms of the best time of year that mountain lions are most active, the winter season is more promising compared to the summer season. This is because many different animals make their way down from the northern peaks and into the lower valleys due to the cold and chill. Many species can be viewed from the safety of your vehicle, which is especially good news if you happen to encounter a cougar. Always maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from any carnivore in Yellowstone National Park!

Where Can I View Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park?

Mountain Lions in Yellowstone National Park
Cougars frequently hunt in the upper regions of Yellowstone, along the Northern Ridge.

eumates/Shutterstock.com

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to view or catch a glimpse of a mountain lion during your visit to Yellowstone National Park. This is because these animals are elusive and prefer the seclusion of rocky, wooded areas. However, cougars frequently hunt in the upper regions of Yellowstone, along the Northern Ridge. You may get lucky and spot a cougar in this area, though it is exceedingly rare.

Mountain lion kittens are born throughout the year, though their preferred mating season in Yellowstone is anywhere from February until the end of May. This means that baby cougars are born throughout June until September, in the remote regions of the park. While it may sound like the trip of a lifetime to be able to see young mountain lions emerging from their dens for the first time, it’s unlikely that any mother cougar wants you to know where their den is in the first place!

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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.