A highly adaptable Cat, Puma lives in habitats ranging from snow-covered mountains to tropical rainforests. Because of her wide range, She has been called many names by many peoples. “Cougar” is derived from a Tupi word, which means “false deer”, because of her brown coat and large size. “Puma”, from the Quechua language of the Incas, means “power”. “Mountain Lion” was a joke that Native Americans played on the Dutch in New York. They told the Dutch that Puma was a female Lion that lived in the mountains.
Known by many names, Puma is a part of the Small Cats (Felinae Sub-Family) rather than the Big Cats (Pantherinae Sub-Family). “Panther” is a misnomer since Puma does not belong in the Big Cat Family. (“Black Panther” is either Black Jaguar or Leopard.) Like all Felinae, Puma cannot roar. However, She screams like a woman, which frightens people and other Animals.
Because She is an exceptionally successful generalist, Puma survived the late Pleistocene extinctions of other large North American felids. Wherever She lives, Puma migrates to follow Deer and other prey. She prefers living in caves or among rocky outcrops.
Among Native Americans, Puma has a mixed reputation. The Ashinabe (Ojibwa) believed She was an evil being from an underworld. The Shawnees saw Her more positively, since they thought She possessed the gift of prophecy. More familiar with Puma, the Apache People considered Her to be a good mother. The Seminoles respected Florida Panther (a subspecies of Puma), who was associated with the winds. Usually the members of their Panther Clan were also their leaders.
Long and lean, Puma is immensely powerful and capable of killing Black Bear in a single bite. Stalking Him, Puma makes a powerful leap on his back and knocks Him to the ground. In forests, She races through the trees with great agility and speed. Concealing Herself, Puma follows people closely without them sensing it. In fact, She is an “UFO”, often talked about but little seen.
By whatever name Puma is called, She is the epitome of personal power. Elusive and agile, Puma either strikes or watches as She chooses to do. As the graceful ruler of the mountains, She deals out life and death on her timetable. Just remember not to be so elusive and agile that no one can find you.
Puma’s Teachings Also Include:
“And lest I forget Mountain Lion also reminds me to protect my boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.” Copyright: “Spirit Animals and the Wheel of Life”, Hal Zina Bennett.
“It’s sufficient just to know that sometimes in the shadows of dusk, felines on huge paws still creep across the land.” – Gary Urbak, Naturalist.
“Cougar treads the rocky ledges of experience, following the scent of her own vision.” –Copyright: “Animal Totem”. (Read more about Cougar at Animal Totem site.
Note: Names for Puma: Cougar, Mountain Lion, Panther, Catamount, Leopardo
Conservation Note: Florida Panther is severely endangered and is protected in the United States.
To read about Black Panther go to Jaguar or Leopard.