26. Mountain Lion---MontanaThe cougar or mountain lion is primarily an animal of the West. Though the range map shows the orange color as extinct or severely restricted, sightings throughout the Midwest are becoming common. They are relatively secretive, mostly nocturnal, and require remote habitat. They are primarily carnivorous and eat anything from mice to large hooved animals, but may take the occasional domestic animal. They are territorial and do not normally bother humans, though attacks are becoming more common as we hike, bike, and live in their home areas in the West. According to naturalist A. B. Brooks, “The last record of a killing of a panther (cougar) was in 1887 when Col. Cecil Clay and Francis McCoy shot one on Tea Creek, in Pocahontas County.”
One growing problem in some western states (e. g. Washington, Oregon, California) is that animal rightists have stopped mountain lion hunting, leading to higher populations and animals losing their fear of humans. Combining this with more humans hiking and living in lion country, has led to human attacks and deaths. When such lions get in trouble with humans, they must be killed. Consider that in California, where lion hunting with hounds has been stopped, more "problem" lions are killed every year than were harvested when hunting with hounds was legal. Gone are the funds provided by hunters that were used for lion management. Another interesting fact about lions is that the number one predator on mountain lion cubs is older male lions. (Same is true for black bears where the old male boars kill cubs, which is the reason female bears are so protective of their cubs.) Since legal hunting removes some of the oldest male cats, hunting may lead to higher cub survival. This particular lion came from Montana in 1989. There hunting is heavily regulated by a quota system to prevent over harvest, but to keep numbers at a level where killing of domestic livestock and encounters with humans are minimal.