- The Distribution of Mountain Lions
Distribution in the Americas
Historically, Mountain Lions had an extensive distribution throughout the Americas, ranging from British Colombia in North America to Patagonia at the tip of South America (Young and Goldman 1946). The Mountain Lion’s ability to adapt to diverse geographical landscapes and a range of elevations allowed these cats to have the “broadest geographical distribution of any terrestrial mammals in the Western Hemisphere, except for humans” (Logan and Sweanor 2001).
The arrival of Europeans into the Americas brought a culture of fear and misconceptions regarding the ability to co-exist with predators. Since the 1500’s, Mountain Lions and other predators have been targeted for eradication and, together with the expansion of human settlement, suitable Mountain Lion habitat has diminished and the population declined, especially in North America (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Distribution of Mountain Lions in North America
Source: National Wildlife Foundation
In North America, the Eastern Mountain Lion population has been completely eradicated except for a small population (estimated at 30 individuals) in Florida (Puma concolor coryi AKA Florida Panther), but the main current distribution is limited to the western part of the United States and some parts of Canada (Puma concolor).
The genetic separation between the Mountain Lion population in the west and the Florida Panther population is being challenged by recent genetic studies that suggest the genetic differences between the populations do not merit separation into subspecies, and that all North American Mountain Lions should be treated as one subspecies, Puma concolor couguar (Culver 1999, 2000).
Distribution in Texas
In Texas, Mountain Lions were once distributed throughout the state but are currently found primarily along the Texas-Mexico border in western and southern Texas. True distribution is unknown as the Texas Mountain Lion population has been neither studied nor monitored (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Current distribution of Mountain Lions in Texas