Linked to speed, strength, and cunning, the names “puma” and “cougar” are popular names for sports teams, athletic shoes, and cars.
Where at the Zoo
Where in the World
aka cougar, mountain lion, panther, and more
Silent and elusive, pumas are extremely rare in Minnesota. Few Minnesotans have ever seen one in the wild. Although they usually avoid humans, you wouldn’t want to come close to this large predator.
What They Eat
Where They Live
What They Do
How They’re Doing
Where at the Zoo
Where in the World
Probably due to their wide range across North and South America, pumas have multiple names they are known by.
Pumas can run up to 43 mph, jump more than 20 feet from standing, and leap up to 16 feet straight up. One was even seen jumping 12 feet into a tree with a deer in its jaws.
Although pumas can make a wide range of cat noises (hisses, growls, purrs), they cannot roar. Instead, they are well known for their distinctive “screams.”
Pumas are excellent swimmers, but like most cats, prefer not to get wet.
Care at the Zoo
In the wild, pumas spend a large part of their time stalking, killing, and consuming their prey. These activities involve chewing, pouncing, chasing, leaping, tugging, dragging, and burying objects. Here at the Minnesota Zoo, keepers have designed enrichment activities that give pumas the opportunity to express these natural behaviors and help enhance their physical and psychological well-being.
Pumas’ zoo diet includes meat and bone. Occasionally keepers offer pumas “whole prey” carcasses such as a rat, rabbit, or chicken. This allows them the opportunity to eat something with fur or feathers like they might in the wild.
Big cats like pumas don’t just eat small prey, so the Minnesota Zoo has developed a carcass feeding program. Staff process road-killed deer and feed them parts of the carcasses. To give pumas an extra challenge the items might be hung with a bungee. The added springing action simulates having to tug at their prey, haul it away, or keep hold of it while it struggles to get away. Hiding food in brush piles, under logs, or high in trees encourages exploration and foraging.
Wild pumas do not always consume all of their prey and must protect it from being stolen of scavenged. Hauling a carcass up a tree or burying it can keep it from being taken by would-be thieves in the wild.
In the wild, pumas live a feast and famine existence. They gorge themselves on a fresh kill; instinctively knowing it may be days before another successful hunt. To mimic this natural feeding cycle, keepers occasionally give the cats fleshy bones instead of a larger meal. This encourages natural crushing and tearing behaviors, and helps clean their teeth.
Training provides mental stimulation for the pumas and helps to reduce stress associated with moves or vet check-ups. Using a whistle and gobs of raw meat for positive reinforcement, keepers can train the cats to cooperate in their own care, such as going on a scale for weighing. In addition to lessening stress during procedures, training pumas to cooperate in their own care provides them with an opportunity to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.
Pumas are the largest wild cats in North America. Their coats are grayish-brown to reddish-brown in color except for the black tip on their tail and on the backs of their ears. With large paws, sharp claws, and long, muscular hind legs, pumas are powerfully built. A flexible spine gives them speed and maneuverability by allowing them to change directions quickly while running. Their long tail is about 1/3 the length of their body and held close to the ground when walking.
Range and Habitat
Habits and Adaptations