By: Marlene Affeld
Cougars or mountain lions, also known as pumas, are large, powerful and aggressive predators. Found throughout Montana, a large male may weigh 130-190 pounds while females average 90-130 pounds. Stretching up to nine feet, nose to the tip of their tail, cougars are tawny colored with a dark tip at the end of the tail. Young cubs have spots which slowly fade. A cougar has a lifespan of up to 20 years.
Cougars were first hunted and killed for a bounty in Montana beginning in 1879. In 1971 the Montana legislature classified the cougar as a game animal and as a result lions have regained much of their previous historical distribution in the mountains of Montana. Prior to the arrival of the white man, mountain lions were at one time the most widely distributed land mammal in the western hemisphere ranging from northern Canada to the southern most tip of South America. Now they are found mainly in the western United States, with a strong population in northwestern Montana.