Mountain lions, also known as “pumas” and “cougars” are large powerful predators that have an important role in the ecosystem. Their primary food source is deer, but they can also prey on smaller animals like raccoons, rabbits, domestic pets and livestock. More than half of California, including most of undeveloped San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, is prime mountain lion habitat. Mountain lions are a specially protected species in California.
The mountain lion has a small head and small rounded ears. It has a very long tail that is about 2/3rds the length of its body.
- Color: Generally tan, but can range from gray to brown, with a whitish underside. The ears and tail are tipped with black. Cubs have camouflage spots that fade as they mature.
- Size: Adult males can reach 8 feet in length from nose to tail; and weigh 130-150 lbs. Adult females can reach up to 7 feet in length and weigh 65-90 lbs.
- Tracks: Unlike a dog, mountain lions don’t leave a nail mark and their pads are shaped like an “M”.
- Behavior: Adult pumas are solitary and territorial animals. Males can have territories up to 100 square miles and females’ territories can range up to 60 square miles. They are most active between dusk and dawn, and generally avoid contact with humans.
Stay safe in mountain lion country
- Do not hike, bike or jog alone.
- Avoid hiking or jogging when mountain lions are most active – dawn, dusk, and at night.
- Keep a close watch on small children.
- Do not wear headphones.
If you encounter a mountain lion
- Do not approach a mountain lion, it may feel cornered if you approach it.
- Don’t turn your back or run, which might trigger a chase response.
- Stand tall, face the animal, make noise and try to look bigger by waving your arms or throwing objects.
- Without bending over, pick up small children.
- If attacked, fight back.
REPORT ALL ENCOUNTERS OR ATTACKS IMMEDIATELY
If a human is attacked by a mountain lion, call 911.
If you have a face-to-face encounter with a mountain lion, contact a ranger or call the District office at (650) 691-1200 during regular business hours. On weekends or after 5:00 PM on weekdays, call dispatch at (650) 903-6395.
For more information, visit:
California Department of Fish and Wildlife: www.wildlife.ca.gov/Keep-Me-Wild/Lion
Bay Area Puma Project: www.bapp.org