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Where Do Mountain Lions Live? Are They Threatened?

Mountain lions live across most of North and South America. They are adaptable, which is why they live in a variety of habitats, from rocky canyons and deserts to tropical forests and wetlands. They have the largest range of any animal in the Americas.

Mountain lions live in many different environments throughout North and South America. They have successfully spread across a variety of habitats.

Their massive range is without a doubt the result of their efficiency and adaptability. 

They can switch their hunting strategies depending on prey availability and geography, which makes them incredible hunters. Read more about their habitat, range, and more.

Mountain Lions Natural Habitat

Mountain lions’ natural habitats include many environments. They are adaptable hunters, an important factor for predators. Like other predators, mountain lions follow their prey. They can live in many types of biomes, from deserts and rocky mountainous areas to bushlands and rainforests. 

Mountain lions have adapted to live in a variety of habitats. Many of these are wildly different from one another. 

The main thing that ties habitats together is the presence of prey. There has to be enough to sustain a healthy mountain lion.

Mountain lions have the largest range of any terrestrial mammal in the western hemisphere. They can be found from northwestern Canada all the way down to southern Chile and Argentina.

Here are the five main types of biomes that mountain lions inhabit:

  1. Mountains
  2. Deserts
  3. Grasslands and lowlands.
  4. Mangrove forests and swamps
  5. Forests and rainforests

1. Mountains

Mountain Lion on Mountain

As the name suggests, mountain lions live in the mountains. They thrive in steep environments thanks to their built. They are perfect for efficient, agile movement across rocky environments.

2. Deserts

Mountain lions thrive in arid environments like deserts. They prefer rocky desert areas and dry canyons where they can easily stalk their prey.

3. Grassland and Lowlands

Mountain Lion on Grassland and Lowlands

Mountain lions can also be found in more open areas like grasslands. While they prefer higher elevations they can easily survive at low altitudes too. They do really well in regions that have some vegetation to help them hide, such as shrublands

4. Mangrove Forests and Swamps

Mountain lions can also adapt to life in wetter regions. They live in wetlands, swamps, and even mangrove forests. A notable example of a well-adapted mountain lion population is the Florida panther. 

Florida panthers have managed to survive in the eastern US even when most other mountain lion populations were extirpated. They are habituated to living next to the water and even hunt juvenile alligators.

5. Forest and Rainforests

Mountain Lion on Forest and Rainforests

Mountain lions live in all types of forests and rainforests across their range. They can survive in the cold boreal forests of Canada as well as the jungles of Central and South America.

Mountain Lions Nesting Habits

Mountain lions use many different spots as shelter when they need to. They use areas with dense vegetation, rocky alcoves, hollowed-out trees, and many other covered spots. Only females use proper dens, they need them to take care of cubs. Males only have temporary shelters.

Unlike other felines, like lynx or bobcat, mountain lions don’t generally use dens as shelter. Mountain lions are less threatened by other animals so they are overall safer in the environment. 

While they only use dens under certain conditions, male and female mountain lions have different uses for them.

Male mountain lions don’t have permanent dens. They take shelter from the elements, in areas with dense vegetation, rocky alcoves, and other discreet places. 

Males don’t have a need for a more permanent shelter. They continuously roam their ranges in search of prey and females. Their ranges are also about twice the size of female ones.

Female mountain lions use temporary shelters like males. Besides the temporary shelters, females also have some proper dens, that they use when rearing cubs. 

Mountain lion cubs need a safe and warm place to stay even when their mother isn’t around. These dens can be placed in rock crevices or small caves, under tree roots or hollowed-out trees, and in areas with dense vegetation.

Female mountain lion dens are frequently lined with moss and other vegetation. This helps keep the cubs warm and comfortable. Dens are used for several years before being changed.[2]

Mountain Lions Nesting Habits

Where do Mountian Lions Live?

Mountain lions live in the Americas between northern Canada to Southern Chile and Argentina. They have the largest geographic range of any mammal in the western hemisphere. Despite intense hunting by humans, they are starting to gain lost territory.

Mountain lions have a massive geographic range that spans from northeastern Canada to southern Chile and Argentina. 

Besides humans, they have the largest range of any mammal in the western hemisphere.[3]

Their historical range used to cover almost all of North America, except the far north. Due to intense hunting by humans, mountain lions have lost much of their eastern range. 

They were all but extinct from the eastern US and Canada, but some small populations might’ve survived.  Altough it was declared extinct from most eastern US states, there were mountain lion sightings in easter canada.

The only confirmed population of mountain lions that remained active in the eastern US was the so-called “Florida panthers” of Southern Florida.

Mountain lions are currently recovering their historic range. They are starting to gain back some of their lost territories by recolonizing areas in the eastern US and Canada.

Where do Mountian Lions Live

Are Mountain Lions’ Habitats Threatened?

Some of the mountain lion’s habitats are threatened. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, mountain lions are categorized as “least concern”.  While they aren’t going extinct, mountain lions still suffer the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation.

Mountain lions are of “least concern”, meaning they are not at immediate risk of going extinct. But, they have been losing some of their habitats (mainly due to human activity).

Due to hunting and human expansion, mountain lion populations have declined all over their range. In the eastern US and Canada, this decline is the most apparent.

In the east mountain lions have been almost completely extirpated. Only some small isolated populations remain, with a substantial one remaining in Florida.


Different countries and regions treat the conservation of the mountain lion population in different ways.

CountryStatus of mountain lion hunting
Central AmericaProhibited

There are some exceptions to these rules:

  • Hunting is permitted in some parts of Argentina.
  • In the US state of California hunting is prohibited, unless a permit is obtained. The permit is only given for mountain lions that have killed domestic animals.[4]
  • The state of Florida protects mountain lions. They are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Thanks to strict regulations in most countries mountain lion populations can start recovering some of their lost historic range but human activity is still a continuous threat.

Threats to Mountain Lion Populations

The mountain lion population is threatened by human activity. Because of human expansion, mountain lions suffer from prey depletion, habitat loss, and habitat defragmentation.

Human activity is the cause of most of the threats that destabilize the populations of mountain lions across their range. This is true for many animals.

In spite of conservation efforts, prey depletion, habitat loss, and habitat defragmentations, all continue to have a negative impact on mountain lions.

Threats to Mountain Lion Populations

Prey Depletion

Mountain lions eat a varied diet. They are carnivores but they are adaptable ones, hunting different prey depending on availability and region.

Despite their adaptability, mountain lions suffer the effects of prey depletion. This is caused by poaching. 

Poaching (especially during the breeding season) of the mountain lion’s usual prey has a negative effect on their populations.

Poaching is in itself a big problem. In the US it’s caused by many factors, from a general disdain for authority to an actual necessity caused by poverty.[5][6]

Habitat Loss and Defragmentation

Habitat loss and defragmentation are direct results of human expansion over the range of wild animals. It negatively impacts the safety of the animals and their ease of movement.

Human expansion, and the growth of settlements further into the wild increase the chances of conflicts with mountain lions. This affects lions in states where they are protected, like California.[7]

Habitat defragmentation is an even bigger issue. Mountain lion populations are isolated from one another thanks to human infrastructure like roads and highways. This greatly affects the flow of genetic diversity from one region to another.

The creation of habitat corridors is a great way to improve stability in wildlife populations, allowing new individuals to join a population from another region.[8]


Mountain lions live in many different regions across their enormous range. They are found from northwestern Canada to southern Argentina and Chile. 

Mountain lions live in a variety of habitats, from arid deserts and rocky mountains to swamps and jungles. They are not under threat of extinction but their population is unstable because of human activity.

About Codrin Frunzete

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