The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Beaver
Story Of The Lion
Story Of The Elk
Story Of The Tiger.
Story Of The Mountain- Lion
Story Of The Camel
Story Of The Jaguar
Story Of The Buffalo.
Read More Articles About: The Story Of Wild Animals
Story Of The Mountain Lion
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Many a young hunter in the Rocky Mountains has been startled out of a sound sleep by a wild, unearthly cry unlike any other sound of the forest.
"What's that ?" he would ask, listening to catch a repetition of the sound.
"Go to sleep," replies the old hunter, who is his companion; "that's only a painter, what most people call a mountain lion. They won't bother us; go to sleep."
The mountain lion is the largest representative of the cat family in America. It is often called the panther, a word the old-time hunters corrupted into painter. Some works on natural history give it the name of cougar, but I prefer the name given it by the Peruvians Puma, which has been adopted by all American zoologists.
In regard to the dimensions of the puma, it is stated that a male preserved in the museum at Washington has a total length (measured along the curves of the body) of 6 feet 7 inches, of which 2 feet 2 inches are occupied by the tail. A large male killed in Arizona measured 7 feet in total length, of which 3 feet was occupied by the tail ; while a smaller male from the same locality had a total length of only 6 feet, of which the tail took up 1 foot 11 inches. The largest individual of which the measurements can be regarded as authenticated was one killed in Texas in the year 1846, of which the total length was 8 feet 2 inches, the length of the tail being 3 feet 1 inch. A stuffed specimen measures 9 feet 1 inch in total length. I believe that the length may in some instances be as much as 11 feet.
In the parts of South America where cattle and horses are largely bred the puma is a terrible scourge. Indeed, so partial is it to horse-flesh, that in some parts of Patagonia it is almost impossible to breed horses owing to the destruction of their colts. An instance is related of a puma springing on a colt among a drove in charge of a driver, and killing it so suddenly by dislocation of the neck that the unfortunate animal was actually dead before it fell to the ground. It further appears that in districts where pumas abound the semi-wild horses of South America can scarcely maintain their existence, owing to the slaughter of their colts. The puma does not, however, confine its ravages on horses to the colts, but will also attack and kill full-grown adults. The same is true for cattle, among which calves more generally, and cows rarely, fall victims to the puma's rapacity. Horned cattle are, however, less preferred than sheep, which, next :to horse-flesh, forms its favorite food in pastoral districts. Indeed, so partial are pumas to mutton, that one has been known to make use of a calf-pen as a place of concealment from which to raid on a sheep-fold, passing through the former without offering to molest its tenants.
The acme of daring on the part of the South American puma is, however, reached in the attacks which it makes upon the jaguar; and it appears that in North America the puma exhibits an equally marked hostility to the grizzly bear. In these respects the puma is undoubtedly entitled to be regarded as one of the boldest and fiercest of carnivores in proportion to its size.
I once, and once only, killed a puma, and nothing will induce me to, kill another. On the occasion referred to a puma was found, which sat perfectly still with its back against a stone, not even moving when lassoed. I dismounted, and drawing my knife, advanced to kill it; still the puma made no attempt to free itself from the lasso, but it seemed to know what was coming, for it began to tremble, the tears ran from its eyes, and it whined in the most pitiful manner. I killed it as it sat there unresisting before me; but, after accomplishing the deed, felt that I had committed a murder. If this were an isolated case, it would not be of much importance, but scores of instances attest that this strange and inexplicable behavior is characteristic of the South American puma, and that it almost invariably resigns itself to death in this unresisting manner. Very different is, however, the behavior of the puma when attacked by a hunter accompanied by dogs. At such times, the animal is roused to the fiercest paroxysms of rage; and with hair erect and eyes flashing like balls of lurid fire, it rushes spitting and snarling on the dogs, utterly regardless of the presence of the hunter. So thoroughly indeed is the hunter ignored on such occasions, that he may actually belabor the puma on the head with a cudgel without drawing its attack upon himself ; the animal receiving such blows without retaliation, and calmly waiting its opportunity of making a rush upon the dogs.
Strange as it may at first sight appear, the pumas of the Adirondacks were wont to prey largely upon the porcupines which are found in abundance in that wilderness, and individuals were frequently killed with their mouths and lips, and sometimes other portions of their bodies, absolutely bristling with the quills of porcupines. Whether, however, these animals were selected as an article of food from choice, or whether the pumas were driven to devour them from inability to capture other prey, is uncertain. Be this as it may, porcupines are creatures which, from their sluggish habits and contempt of ordinary foes, may be easily captured, and would be sure to come in the way of the puma during its nocturnal wanderings. The North American puma will eat almost anything, from deer down to rats, mice, fish and even snails.