Panthera's Teton Cougar Project has been conducting research on cougars in northwest Wyoming since 2000. By placing motion-triggered cameras at cougar dens, feeding sites, and other hidden locations, biologists with Panthera's Teton Cougar Project have made fascinating discoveries about the social bonds between cougars and the behaviors passed down from one generation to the next.
Young kittens learn rapidly from interactions with their mother and siblings, exhibiting behaviors like stalking and caching from an early age. The obvious affection between family members—displayed through vocalizations, physical contact, and other cues—persists until kittens disperse as subadults. Importantly, mothers teach their kittens that social interactions conducted around food differ radically from those occurring at dens or day beds. Family meals are sometimes even shared with other adult cougars.
This research has also unveiled the rare and remarkable occurrence of adoption in cougars, where adult females take on orphaned kittens that would otherwise perish. As our understanding of cougar behavior continues to grow, so too can our ability to co-exist with these amazing and complex animals.
Dr. Mark Elboch released recent findings from his research in his article "Solitary Is Not Asocial: Social Interactions among Mountain Lions." His research revealed that 60 percent of documented mountain lion interactions occurred over food. "And contrary to everything we read about mountain lions, kittens were present at 60% of Female-Female and Male-Female interactions at kill sites. Courtship interactions were less common. We even documented three adult pumas feeding together on 5 occasions, and as many as 9 pumas at a kill, including youngsters."
We should learn to appreciate cougars for the beautiful creatures they are, for the structuring role they play in nature, and we should strive to learn to live with harmoniously with them.