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Cougar vs. Mountain Lion — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on January 12, 2024
Cougar and Mountain Lion are actually the same animal, scientifically known as Puma concolor, with different names used in various regions.
Cougar vs. Mountain Lion — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Cougar and Mountain Lion


Key Differences

Cougar: Commonly used in North and South America, the term "cougar" is one of many names for Puma concolor. Mountain Lion: Another popular name for the same species, especially used in the western United States.
Cougar: There is no biological distinction between animals called cougars and those referred to as mountain lions. Mountain Lion: Identical in species and characteristics to what is known as cougars.
Cougar: Also known as puma, panther, or catamount in different regions. Mountain Lion: The name emphasizes the animal's habitat in mountainous regions, but it's the same as a cougar.
Cougar: A large, solitary cat, adept at climbing and known for its powerful build. Mountain Lion: Describes the same animal, with impressive agility and strength, primarily a carnivore.
Cougar: Found in various habitats across the Americas, from mountains to forests and deserts. Mountain Lion: Lives in the same wide range of environments as described for cougars.

Comparison Chart


Common name in North and South America
Often used in the western United States

Biological Identity

Same species as mountain lion (Puma concolor)
Identical to cougar

Other Names

Also known as puma, panther, catamount
Shares all other common names with cougar


Large, solitary, agile predator
Same characteristics as cougar


Diverse environments across the Americas
Same habitat range as cougar

Compare with Definitions


Solitary and territorial in nature.
The cougar marks its territory with distinct scent markers.

Mountain Lion

Another name for the cougar, or Puma concolor.
The mountain lion is often sighted in the Rockies.


Also referred to as a puma or mountain lion.
Sightings of cougars have increased in rural areas.

Mountain Lion

Prefers solitary living and is highly territorial.
Mountain lions avoid human contact and live in secluded areas.


Adaptable to various habitats, from mountains to forests.
Cougars are known for their ability to thrive in diverse environments.

Mountain Lion

A large cat native to the Americas.
Mountain lions are apex predators in their natural habitat.


A skilled hunter with a powerful build.
The cougar's stealth and strength make it a formidable hunter.

Mountain Lion

Adapts well to various ecosystems.
Mountain lions are found from the Canadian Rockies to the South American Andes.


A large predatory cat known as Puma concolor.
The cougar is an apex predator in many ecosystems across the Americas.

Mountain Lion

Known for its agility and strength.
The mountain lion can leap great distances when hunting.


A large powerful wild cat (Puma concolor syn. Felis concolor) chiefly of mountainous regions of the Americas, having an unmarked tawny body and a long tail. Also called catamount, mountain cat, mountain lion, panther, puma; Also called regionally painter.


(Slang) A woman, especially one over 30, who romantically pursues or attracts younger men.


Puma concolor, a wild feline native to the Americas.
Florida panther


An American feline quadruped (Felis concolor), resembling the African panther in size and habits. Its color is tawny, without spots; hence writers often called it the American lion. Called also puma, panther, mountain lion, and catamount. See Puma.


Large American feline resembling a lion

Common Curiosities

Are cougars/mountain lions dangerous to humans?

While generally avoiding human contact, they can be dangerous if threatened or if they feel their territory is invaded.

How can I tell if a cougar or mountain lion is nearby?

Signs include tracks, scat, and scratch marks on trees. Sighting reports in the area are also indicators.

What do cougars/mountain lions eat?

They are carnivores and primarily hunt deer, elk, and other smaller mammals.

Why are there different names for the same animal?

Different names like cougar and mountain lion have arisen due to regional variations in language and culture.

Is there any size difference between a cougar and a mountain lion?

No, they are the same species and have the same size and physical characteristics.

Where are cougars/mountain lions most commonly found?

They inhabit a range of environments across the Americas, from Canada to South America.

Can cougars/mountain lions climb trees?

Yes, they are excellent climbers and often use trees for hunting and shelter.

What is the lifespan of a cougar/mountain lion?

In the wild, they can live up to 10 years, and longer in captivity.

How do cougars/mountain lions communicate?

They communicate through vocalizations, scent markings, and visual signals.

What time of day are cougars/mountain lions most active?

They are primarily nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk).

Are cougars/mountain lions endangered?

Their status varies by region, but they are generally not endangered, though some populations are under threat.

How do cougars/mountain lions hunt?

They are stealthy predators, using surprise and a powerful leap to catch their prey.

Are cougar and mountain lion populations growing?

In some areas, populations are stable or increasing, while in others they are declining due to habitat loss.

How do humans impact cougar/mountain lion habitats?

Human development and activities can fragment their habitats, leading to conflicts and reduced hunting grounds.

Can cougars/mountain lions be domesticated?

No, they are wild animals and do not adapt well to domestication.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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