Felis concolor Linnaeus
Description: The mountain lion presently is extinct in Kansas. It can be distinguished by: 1) large size, 2) relatively small, rounded head, 3) short, round, black ears which have occasional gray or red patches on the back, 4) sides of muzzle black, 5) long, well-furred tail colored like the upper body except for the dark brown or black tip, and 6) dorsal color slate gray to buff or reddish brown, lighter on the shoulders and fading to buff or nearly white on the belly, chin, throat and upper lips. Juveniles are distinguished from adults by their yellowish brown coat covered with large black spots. The tail is banded by dark rings. Juvenile markings fade and adult colors are reached when the animal is about half grown.
Size: Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 1844-2105 mm; tail 690-803 m; hind foot 230-292 mm; ear 52-105 mm; weight 36-91 kilograms.
Range and Habitat: Originally, mountain lions probably ranged throughout Kansas. They seem to have reached their greatest abundance in southern Kansas along timbered streams, and the adjacent hills and grasslands. They were reported to be uncommon on shortgrass prairie where shelter was absent. In other areas, mountain ions use both rocky, forested areas and the tall grass prairie and savannah. There were two subspecies of the mountain lion in Kansas: Felis concolor hippolestes Merriam in the western quarter of the state, and Felis concolor schorgeri Jackson throughout the rest of the state.
Reproduction: The mountain lion breeds throughout the year, but a peak occurs in April and May. Most females breed once every two years. After a gestation period of about 96 days, one to six (usually two or three) kittens are born with their eyes and ears closed. They are 200 to 300 mm long and weigh 230 to 450 (average 340) grams. Their eyes are fully open after two weeks. The kittens begin eating meat at six weeks of age, but continue to suckle for about twelve weeks. The female brings food to the den for several weeks, and then brings the kittens to eat at her kills. After about two months the den is abandoned and kittens follow the female, using temporary shelters while she hunts. When they are half-grown (about six months), they follow the female for more than a year, dispersing by the time they are two years old.
Habits: Individual mountain lions maintain territories of various sizes, ranging from eight to forty square kilometers The size depends upon food abundance, habitat and reproductive condition (females with kittens have larger territories than nonreproductive females). Dens are made in shallow, open caves, under uprooted trees or in dense thickets. No bedding materials are gathered. Population densities have been estimated at one mountain lion per 18 square kilometers. Individuals of the same sex have non-overlapping territories, but males and females may share the same areas. Territories are often established by scratch and scent marks. The marks permit individuals to avoid close contact with one another. Many mountain lions in a population do not possess territories and are transients.
Food: Deer comprise 65 to 80 per cent of the diet of the mountain lion. Procupines also make up a conspicuous portion (20 per cent) of its food, and rabbits, hares, squirrels, rats, mice and beavers usually form the remainder of the diet.
Remarks: The last confirmed mountain lion in Kansas was taken in 1904 in Ellis County. Early records show it was common in Harper, Barber, Comanche, Saline, butler and Sumner counties. The mountain lion once ranged across southern Canada, the contiguous United States, and Central and South America. Presently, it is restricted in North America to portions of the western United States, with isolated populations in Florida, eastern Canada, and other parts of the eastern and southern United States. Recent reports have confirmed the presence of the mountain lion in Missouri and Oklahoma. It may also be present in western Nebraska. Mountain lions, in the wild, may live a maximum of 15 to 18 years.
Return to the Mammals of Kansas index page.