Known commonly as cougars, pumas or mountain lions, these large cats range throughout Cascadia with the exception of Alaska. They are predators that attack their prey—primarily deer—by stalking and ambush rather than long chases like wolves. They are more closely related to house cats than true lions and tigers. Their biggest threats are habitat degradation and human-caused mortality catalyzed by the same myth and fear campaigns directed towards wolves in terms of impact on game species and human safety. Interestingly, research emerging from studies in Wyoming indicates that cougar populations when left un-managed or un-hunted tend to be somewhat self-regulating as the older cats, particularly the males or “toms,” are very territorial and attack interlopers.
The lynx is found mainly in association with snowshoe hares which constitute more than 70% of their diet and the hare population cycles tend to drive lynx abundance. Typically solitary hunters, lynx are often followed by owls that will swoop down and take prey scared into the open by the cats. Currently listed as threatened in the lower 48 states due to habitat loss and trapping there are remnant populations in Washington State and Oregon, generally near dense forests at higher elevations. These cats are more common in Canada and Alaska.
Bobcats occur from southern Canada down into Mexico. Although bobcats are generally excluded from areas of deep snow where the lynx’s broad feet help them thrive, bobcats have more generalized habitat and food preferences than their cousins. Bobcats also differ from lynx in being smaller and lacking the pronounced ear tufts. In all but the Northeast and some areas in the Midwest their populations are fairly stable with their main predators being humans as well as wolves and bears in some areas.
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