The American lion is a cat of many names - cougar, panther, puma, painter - but it is best known in the west as mountain lion. Mountain lions are very large animals, with a typical adult male weighing 110 to 180 pounds and the female 80 to 130 pounds. Males will measure 6 to 8 feet from nose to tail tip and females 5 to 7 feet. They are tawny to reddish brown in color. The long heavy tail is the most distinctive feature. Measuring almost two-thirds the length of the head and body, it is tipped with brown or black. Mountain lions are found throughout California. While one may think of the mountains and foothills as their habitat, some have been sighted along valley riparian corridors. These are probably young animals recently separated from their mothers and moving through the area in search of their own territory.
Deer are the mountain lion's preferred prey, but they also feed on coyote, rabbits and other small mammals. Because they are stalking predators, mountain lions are very stealthy and secretive. One would be very lucky to catch even a fleeting glimpse of one of these large graceful cats. You are much more likely to see their distinctive tracks on a dusty road. All cats have similar tracks with two lobes on the front and three lobes at the rear of the central pad.
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