______________________________ &Species
&&&&General biodiversity

&Conservation expeditions


Pumas are able to live on modified landscapes as long as enough prey, cover, and water are available.


Choose a Conservation Expedition to participate:

• Look for tigers, elephants, and leopards in the jungles of Indonesia, Sumatra

• Look for jaguars and pumas in the Brazilian Rainforest

Click here for more information


Puma main prey

Armardillo, peccaries, capibaras and deer

Nine-banded armadillo
Dasypus novemcinctus

Collared peccary
Pecari tajacu

Hidrochoerus hidrochaeris

Grey-brocket deer
Mazama gouazoubira


Photo of an adult male mountain lion taken during
Projeto Puma's field research in Brazil

LATIN NAME: Puma concolor

COMMON NAMES: Puma is a Quechua name of peruvian origin, meaning powerful, and suçuarana is of indigenous brazilian origin, meaning 'like the deer'

Brazil: leão-baio, onça-parda, puma, suçuarana

North America: catamount, cougar, mountain lion, panther, puma

DISTRIBUTION: Americas, from southern Chile to northern Canada

DESCRIPTION: Large predator from the Felidae family, weight from 30 to 60 Kg, body length 1.10 meter and tail 60 cm varying according to geographical location. Males are larger than females.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION: The puma is both an umbrella and a keystone species. An umbrella species range over large territories, which are likely to incorporate a great diversity of organisms. A keystone species is considered a strong link in the food chain and its removal affects the biodiversity and abundance of several organisms.

The puma has nonetheless been wiped out almost entirely from eastern North America and It is persecuted for livestock depredation throughout its distribution. In Brazil although protected by legislation there are no compensatory mechanisms for livestock losses, and pumas are poached by ranchers as a result. Large areas are necessary to maintain a minimum viable population size, which is one of the reasons why it is naturally rare over its entire range. Inbreeding is a threat to the puma in certain areas due to habitat fragmentation.

The most notorious case of inbreeding occurs in Florida, where a relict population shows signs of physical anomalies.

Puma populations have stabilized or increased in some areas of North America, but seem to be declining in parts of Latin America due to increased settlement in frontier areas.

A film produced by Plural Films and RBS in one of our
study sites and with Projeto Puma's participation



A film with good shots of a puma interacing with
a young (north American) bear



Goats and sheep are vulnerable to mountain lion attacks, specially if left unguarded during the night

Mountain lions are poached because they attack livestock. Photo taken by Projeto Puma.

Above, a video (2MB) showing a 18 sheep killed in a single night by a puma in September 2006, southern Brazil. Filmed by Projeto Puma.


According to our investigation, pumas will kill several free-ranging sheep during a single attack, and reduce to few individuals a herd of several dozen animals in few weeks. When sheep herds are brought to corrals at night near households the herd is only occasionally predated. Pumas will avoid proximity to human dwellings in areas in which they are persecuted.

Feeding on livestock kill near households may be stressful for the puma. In its natural habitat, pumas will drag a recent kill to the bushes for safety before feeding on it. In fenced currals, pumas will often not be to drag the kill. Under stress, a puma was recorded regurgitating under this situation.

In september 2006, at the highland study area of southern Brazil, a corral fenced with 17 barbed wire, distant only 15 cm from each other, plus two electrified wires were unable to keep a puma from killing sheep. Eighteen sheep were killed during a single attack, when the average loss is two to three sheep per attack - the fence must have worked against its purpose. Projeto Puma has partially compensated the rancher to encourage continuation of the mitigating procecures. The lessons learned from this experience helped improve the fence and avoid further losses.

We are currently seeking funds for further initiatives to reduce livestock depredation, and consequently reduce puma and jaguar persecution.


genetic drift - for example, accidents that cause the disappearance of organisms that possessed unique genes that are absent from other individuals of the same population, thus genetically impoverishing the remnant group.

natural selection - selection of organisms with characteristics that are fit to take advantage of the surrounding environment. In the above discussion, a great influx of migrants from a distinct environment may destabilize the selection.

Allendorf F.W. 1983. Isolation, gene flow, and genetic differeneciation among populations, pages 51-65 in C.M. Schonewald-Cox., S.M. Chamber, B. MacBryde, W.L. Thomas (eds.) Genetics and conservation.The Benjamin/Cumming publishing Company, Inc.

Taxonomy is the study of classification of the diversity of living organisms. It was popular up until quite recently, when ecology and conservation attracted the attention of most researchers.

The increasing loss of diversity due to habitat modification has revived this science. Today the great majority of organisms are still described according to morphology, in some instances complemented with genetic description.

Our investigation have shown that significant differences were found in the skull size of puma populations from south and southeastern Brazil. This is surprising because they are only 500 km apart.

Usually differences among populations grow as a result of isolation, that is, when the exchange of genetic information is lower than a certain threshold level, produced by one migrant per generation. This migration level is sufficient to avoid loss of diversity due to genetic drif, and at the same time is not enough to influence the frequency of genes in populations under natural selection (Allendorf 1983).

If isolated populations are small, the results are anomalies from inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity that may compromise future survival.

Corridors for dispersal of wildlife are the tools to revert this situation, allowing distant populations to interbreed.


Differences in size of mountain lion skulls according to geographical location

Contact |   About us  |   Home   |   Conservation expeditions