Cougars are indigenous to the continent of North America. Because they are solitary and secretive, they are vulnerable to increasing encroachment by humans. For this reason, they normally live in remote areas, but these include a wide variety of terrains, including coniferous forests, tropical areas, semi desert and desert as well as prairies and swamps. Although they avoid humans, they will eat livestock if it becomes easily available to them.
Cougars are extremely powerful and agile animals that rely on quick bursts of speed to reach their prey and strong jaws to attack and kill. Their normal prey is deer, but they will also hunt animals such as moose, elks, wild sheep and mountain goats. Cubs often feed on smaller prey such as raccoons, rabbits, hares and rodents. One example of the prowess of cougars is that it has been documented that both males and females can kill an adult bull elk, which will weigh approximately seven times the weight of a cougar.
Smaller Prey and Attacking Methods
When larger prey is not in abundance, or just as a snack, a cougar will also eat animals such as frogs, feral pigs, bats and rodents. Their method of attacking, subduing and killing their larger prey is, if it is large, to leap onto the victim’s back, then either pull back the neck with its jaws or deliver a fatal and crushing bite to the base of the skull. For smaller animals, such dramatic onslaughts would not be necessary.
About six months after their birth, cougar cubs begin to eat meat, and they will stay with their mother for approximately 18 to 24 months. During this period, she must find food not only for herself but also for her offspring, which can number up to six. As they grow, the amount of prey that the female must catch increases to a point where she will require at least two to three times her normal, solitary diet. So it is likely that she will take every opportunity to obtain food, even that which is outside of her normal range, and this can include fish.
Learning What to Kill
The Kats Korner website states that research has shown that cougars will only prey on food that they have fed on before prey that their mother has "imprinted." So if the mother has caught and fed them fish, the cubs will retain that taste for life. Furthermore, although fish is not their natural prey, cougars may, according to the book "Cougars," by Lynn M. Stone, eat fish as an appetizer.