20 Mar

Panthera’s Dr. Mark Elbroch Describes the Secret Lives of Cougar Kittens


In a recent presentation on ‘The Secret Lives of Cougar Kittens’ in Jackson Hole, Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project Leader, Dr. Mark Elbroch, explained the fascinating development of cougars from conception to birth, through development and eventually to dispersal. Referencing findings and data gathered from Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project over 13 years, Dr. Elbroch described the progression of life for cougars in northwest Wyoming, including the percentage of cougar kitten survivorship (20%), how often female cougars give birth and why den selection is so critical for kittens’ survival, litter hierarchy and social interactions, threats faced from wolves, bears, hunters, frostbite, and more.

As reported on in a Jackson Hole News and Guide article, Elbroch explained, “At 5 weeks old cougar kittens typically start to leave the den and aren’t always under mother’s watch…By 3 1/2 to 4 months old, cougar kittens are of an age where they’re ready to learn lion etiquette from mom. Life becomes less about play, he said, and hierarchies develop within litters. This period in their lives, when they’re sort of mobile and yet not very quick, not very agile, they’re particularly in danger of being killed by a predator…At 6 months old, young lions have gained agility, can climb trees and usually are able to evade wolves and bears.”

*Read the Jackson Hole News and Guide article to learn more about the secret lives of cougar kittens and visit Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project page to find out how Panthera is working to protect America’s lion.

*The first sentence in the Jackson Hole News and Guide article should read "20%" are surviving, rather than 7%, basing estimates on the full 13-yr analysis and complete sample size of 70 kittens.