History of Mountain Lions

History of Mountain Lions

Cougars were roaming the Americas when humans crossed the land bridge from Asia 40,000 years ago. The big cats once ranged from Canada to the tip of South America, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Admired for their skill as hunters, the cats' image appears in the mythology of Native American cultures throughout the Western Hemisphere. Unfortunately, early European settlers viewed the cougar a competitor for game and a threat to livestock.

By 1900 the cougar was effectively exterminated east of the Mississippi. Many western states offered a reward or bounty for every cougar killed. Most bounty laws were repealed in the 1960s. Today, the mountain lion endures in the western one-third of North America, with a small population in southern Florida. Populations also survive in Mexico, Central, and South America.

Many experts believe mountain lion numbers are increasing in many parts of the West, though the populations are difficult to accurately count. Mountain lion hunting is legal in 11 western states, British Columbia, Alberta, and Mexico. Hunting is prohibited in California.

Mountain lions are hunted with special hounds which track and then chase the cat up a tree -- where it is shot. The head and hide are removed for mounting and tanning. The meat is rarely eaten.

Critics of mountain lion hunting claim it has no biological benefit and is an unethical form of recreation. Proponents of mountain lion hunting claim it causes no significant damage to cougar populations and is a legitimate sport.