Cougar Range and Territory

The cougar is widely distributed from Argentina and Chile to northern British Columbia and New Brunswick.  It has adapted to deserts, brush land, tropical forests and deciduous and coniferous forests. It is one of the world's most adaptable mammals. In Manitoba, the cougar can be found from the boreal forest to the grasslands, concentrating where prey is abundant(Wrigley and Nero 1982).

The cougar is a territorial creature and its home range size varies depending on the habitat type and quality. An animal will have to search further afield if prey is scarce.

Home ranges tend to overlap, especially females. Male territories tend not to overlap, with reasoning being that males are inherently more aggressive due to testosterone levels. Each male marks its territory by scent, scratch marks, and piles of debris, and avoids sharing boundaries with other males, which lessens the chance of territorial fights.

Female cougar territories tend to overlap, as they are more tolerant of other males and females for breeding purposes and to avoid fights. "When accompanied with young kittens, female cougars do become more aggressive towards other male and female cougars" (R.Wrigley, Assiniboine Park Zoo, Winnipeg, Manitoba, April 2005, personal communication).
     
The cougar's range can fluctuate from summer to winter, with cougars moving to lower, warmer elevation during the winter months. Transient, non-resident males (usually around 2 years old) may pass through resident male territory, but rarely attempt to stay unless powerful enough to challenge the resident male for territory. Young cougars are the most dangerous to humans, since they are usually more hungry, unskilled hunters and chased out of their territory by older males.

When the habitat is near carrying capacity for the cougar population, there is a high level of competition between individuals, with the stronger adult males usually winning the battle.

Wildlife corridors(most often natural, forested river valleys that pass through agricultural land or simple bushes along fence lines) act like a bridge through human-occupied territory and encourage the passage of animals from one good habitat to another with little immigration into less-favorable, human-populated areas.
      
Because large blocks of suitable habitat are not possible in many areas, wildlife corridors are needed to allow animal passage between smaller territories(Busch 1996). This is also essential to bring in new blood-lines for the gene-pool. Otherwise, inbreeding can cause disease, heart defects, reproductive problems, etc., such as is the problem with the isolated population species of Florida Panthers. There are only an estimated true 100 Florida Panthers left. Without dispersal corridors and the influx of transient cats, small cougar populations cannot survive. Manitoba must protect its wildlife corridors.
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