The very first exotic feline arrivals at Black Pine were cougars.

These beautiful members of the small cat family, native to North America, are perhaps the most amazing predators ever to walk the continent.  Once the most widely dispersed mammal in the Americas , cougars are known by many names including puma, mountain lion, catamount, firecat, and ghost cat.

Cougars are powerful hunters, yet swift and agile.  Armed with patience, cougars hunt much like their domestic small cat cousins.  Attacking prey from behind, with a pounce, they pull them down and quickly suffocate by using their powerful jaws to grasp the neck of their victim.  The element of surprise is, in part, what enables a single cougar to take down an animal weighing as much as four times their own weight!

These small cats are often confused with big cats simply based on their size.  In fact, their bodies function differently than lions, tigers, jaguars and leopards, their big cat cousins.  Some of the features that make them different include the way their eyes work, how they eat, and how they hunt.  Probably the most notable difference, however, is that they purr.  Cougars are the largest of all cats that have the ability to purr.

These majestic cats roam proudly in what’s left of their natural habitat.  Misunderstood and feared by many, in reality they are simply trying to survive in a man’s world.  Mothers nurse their young for up to two years, which requires a phenomenal amount of food.  That sometimes leads to unfortunate circumstances for the easiest of prey, man.

If people choose to live where cougars live, they’re well advised to respect and revere the cat’s need to survive.  To act responsibly means to leave wild cougars alone, keep pets inside, and children in at dusk and after dark.  People should never roam alone into the depths of a cougar's native territory.

"Joey" (right) and his brother, "Johnny" (top left) were provided permanent refuge at Black Pine in April 2010.  They retired from The Great American Frontier Show, a family-operated educational program that has been seen by thousands of visitors to state fairs throughout the east coast.  They and "Ben", a black bear, needed a new home when the show's owners were facing some financial and health-related challenges and wanted to ensure their animals received the best care possible.

"Meira" (lower left) was adopted from a small cage among many animals relocated during 2011 from a failed rescue facility.  Health and financial issues led to many animals needing help, including this female cougar, three black bears, three gray wolves, and a male lion - all adopted by Black Pine.

InfoBox - Cougar

Status:  Critically endangered species.

Diet in wild:  Deer, raccoon, rabbits, and other mammals.

Life span in wild:  10-12 years

Weight:  130-150 lbs.

Native habitat:  Western U.S., Mexico, Central and South America.