Hunted to near extinction by the 1960s, the growth of the Cougar population in Oregon is a conservation success story. Through a combination of protective legislation, monitoring and public education, the animal’s numbers are currently estimated at around 5,700 individuals. Cougars are the largest predator in Oregon and therefore an important animal in managing the numbers and health of prey species like Roosevelt Elk. They are highly territorial and will patrol an expansive area of one hundred square miles (160 km) or more. They are identifiable by their long, sleek bodies with tawny-colored fur and a long tail tipped with black. Their heads are proportionately small with upright ears and dark markings around the eyes, nose and mouth. Cougars are generally ambush hunters, stalking and then seizing their prey with their powerful jaws and claws. They will allow the prey to bleed to death before consuming it. Cougars may be known by a variety of names, including puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount or panther.
Cougars have the greatest range of any terrestrial animal in Western Hemisphere and can be found throughout the western half of North America and most of Central and South America. The largest concentrations of Cougars in Oregon are in the Blue Mountains and the southwestern part of the Cascades. They are frequently spotted on the Oregon coast, including at the South Beach State Park just a few miles from the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Common, but protected. Oregon’s Cougar Management Plan does allow for the limited taking of cougars based on an established quota.