Mountain Lions

Scientific Name:   Puma concolor

When is the best time to view mountain lions in Monterey County and where is the best viewing?

Mountain lions inhabit the brush and forest areas from the Waddell Creek region down to Big Sur. They can also be observed in Toro Park and Los Padres National Forest, which has over 1,200 miles of trails.


About Mountain Lions

Mountain lions are known by many names including puma, cougar, panther and catamount.  They are primarily nocturnal, although they can be found roaming during the day. This second largest carnivore in Monterey County (second only to the black bear), mountain lions are calm, quiet and solitary. It is rare to see one in person, as they are very shy.  If you do encounter one, do not run but try to appear large (arms over head), maintain eye contact and back away slowly.

Mountain lions are secretive, solitary hunters. They often hunt at night, dawn and dusk by sitting in trees above animal trails, waiting to pounce on prey. These cats make a fatal bite on the neck of their prey, then hide their kill and feed on it for several days.

The mountain lion is very adaptable. Based on recent studies, an estimated 4,000­–6,000 mountain lions reside in the state of California. These studies indicate there are 0 to 10 mountain lions per 100 square miles in California. They are often found in foothills and mountains from low-elevation valleys up to the tree line. Mountain Lions generally live in areas where deer, their favorite prey, are prevalent. 


Mountain Lion Fun Facts

  • Cannot roar, instead produces a high pitched scream
  • Solitary except during mating
  • May roam up to 25 miles in one night
  • Can cover up to 40 horizontal feet in one leap or up to 18 feet vertically
  • Listed in dictionaries under more names than any other animal in the world (as many as 18 native South American, 25 native North American, and 40 English names)
  • Runs at speeds up to 50mph, but is best at short, powerful sprints
  • Kittens have camouflaging black spots and rings around their tails that fade as they mature
  • The largest recorded mountain lion was 300 pounds

Habitat: Greatest range of any large wild mammal in the Western Hemisphere, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America. Adaptable to almost every habitat, from Florida swamps to Canadian forests. Found in all forest types and some lowland and mountainous deserts.

Size: Male mountain lions are 30–40% larger than females. Males measures 6–8 feet and weigh 110–180 pounds while females measure 5–7 feet and weigh 80–130 pounds.

Diet: typically (mule) deer, elk, sheep, moose, horses, cattle, coyotes, insects, porcupines, raccoons, and other rodents

Lifespan: May live up to 18 years in the wild, although average lifespan is 8 to 10 years

Reproduction: Mating season is throughout the year with a gestation of 82–96 days. Mountain Lions average one litter, 2–4 kittens, every two to three years during their reproductive lives. Adult cats only meet to mate.