How to Recognize Cougars


How to Recognize Cougars

Cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, are large cats found in many parts of the world. They are quite elusive, and can be hard to identify if you don’t know what to look for. This guide will teach you how to recognize cougars so that you can avoid them, or get a better view of them in the wild.

Step 1: Learn the Cougar’s Physical Features

Cougars are large cats, with a body length of four to six feet, and a tail that can be double that length. They usually weigh between 70 and 200 pounds. They have long legs that are tan or gray, and a thick coat of fur that is usually light tan in color, but can range from almost white to a dark brown. They have dark facial markings, including a black muzzle and black ears. Their long tail has a black tip.

Step 2: Look for Signs of Their Presence

Cougars are often difficult to spot because they are so elusive, but there are a few signs to look out for that could indicate their presence in an area. These include tracks of a large animal with a distinctive cat-like pattern, scat in the shape of a cylindrical tube, and scratches left on trees. If you notice any of these signs, it’s wise to take caution, as cougars may be nearby.

Step 3: Listen for Cougar Cries

Cougars have a few different vocalizations they use to communicate. The most common one is a low, rumbling sound that can be heard up to a mile away. This sound is often described as a “cougar cry” or a “mountain lion scream.” You may also hear them make a purr-like sound, or a hissing sound when they’re angry or threatened.

Step 4: Be aware of Behaviors that Cougars Exhibit

Cougars have a few behaviors that can help you identify them. They often stalk their prey by walking silently through tall grass, and they usually hunt alone. They will also mark their territory by urinating or scratching large gouges in trees. If you’re in an area with cougars, you might also see them yawning frequently, as this is a sign of aggression.

Step 5: Understand the Risks Involved with Coming in Contact with Cougars

Cougars are not typically aggressive towards humans, but they can be dangerous if they feel threatened. It’s important to understand the risks when coming into contact with cougars, and to take steps to avoid potential conflict. If you do encounter a cougar, it’s best to stay calm, back away slowly, and make yourself look larger. Never run, as this could trigger the cougar’s predatory instincts.

Step 6: Know the Population and Habitat of Cougars

In order to identify cougars, it’s important to know where they live. Cougars are usually found in mountainous regions, forests, and other areas with abundant prey. They tend to inhabit areas with plenty of cover and few roads, but can also be found in suburban areas. Knowing their population and habitat can help you identify cougars more quickly and easily.

Step 7: Exercise Caution When in Cougar-inhabited Areas

It’s important to exercise caution when in areas inhabited by cougars. Make sure to always stay on well-marked trails, and avoid hiking alone. Make noise, such as singing or talking loudly, to let any potential cougars know you’re in the area. Never approach a cougar, and never try to corner it. If you do see a cougar, it’s important to remain calm, keep your distance, and make sure to keep your eyes on the animal.

Step 8: Get Professional Help

If you’re still having trouble recognizing cougars, it’s best to get professional help. Wildlife experts and local park rangers can provide helpful tips and advice on how to identify cougars in your area. They can also answer any questions you may have about cougar behavior and safety.


Recognizing cougars can be tricky, but with the right knowledge and precautions, it’s possible to safely spot them in the wild. Whenever you’re in an area inhabited by cougars, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, stay on well-marked trails, and never approach or corner a cougar. If you’re still having trouble identifying cougars, it’s best to consult a wildlife expert or park ranger for help.

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