The wild cougar population of North Carolina used to stretch from the coast all the way to the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. The species, also known as the eastern cougar, has been pushed out of its natural habitat over several decades, and it is rare to see the cat in the wild.
The eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar) used to be seen in remote areas of the state. According to the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, sightings of the cougar were reported in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests, the Blue Ridge Parkway, northern portions of Uwharrie National Forest and southeastern counties.
North Carolina cougars have been endangered for several decades because of their habitat and diet dwindling over time. With more people building in their remote habitat, the cougars moved out of the area. Deer supplies were unsubstantial. Also, hunting added to the increasingly sparse population.
The cougar, sometimes referred to as puma, panther or mountain lion, is light yellow or tan with dark brown around its muzzle, ears and tip of its long tail. According to the North Carolina Ecological Services, it has a pale reddish or reddish white belly and the inside of its ears are light-colored. Its body in adulthood can reach up to 7 1/2 feet long. The cat can weigh as much as 150 lbs.
Cougars live in remote areas such as mountains, wooded areas, swamps and other places where deer could be abundant. Sometimes they have been found in caves, where they seek shelter. Males have been known to occupy a range of 25 or more square miles; females are known to cover 5 to 20 square miles.
Cougars mainly eat deer, but they will also eat animals such as rabbits, birds, squirrels, wild turkeys, beavers and fish, according to North Carolina Natural Heritage Program.
- cougar image by Photoeyes from Fotolia.com