Mountain Lions

Mountain lion, cougar, puma, catamount, and panther are all common names for the species Felis concolor. These cats are widespread throughout the western hemisphere of North America and occupy a variety of habitats throughout the state of Arizona, including in the Coronado National Forest. Their habitat ranges from the arid desert, rocky and brush-filled canyons, and higher elevation forests.

Physical Appearance

Mountain lion standing in rocks

Adults range from six to nine feet in length and can weigh 80-275 lbs. Their body is solid pale brown to tawny in color with a white undercoat. A mountain lion's tail is two to three feet long and has a dark tip. Their heads are relatively small compared to their bodies and their eyes are wide and golden brown. Juvenile cats may be buff-colored with dark spotted fur and have blue eyes.

Sightings and Encounters

Mountain lion crouchingMountain lions are likely to be found in desert mountain areas with broken terrain. Cliffs and steep slopes are favorite vantage points for cats where they can easily pounce on prey from above. Cats also conceal themselves in brushy areas where they can rush prey and then drag their kill back into a protected area.

If you encounter a mountain lion:

  • Do not approach the cat.
  • Do not run past or from a cat as it may trigger their chase instinct.
  • Do not bend over or crouch down. Pick up small children without bending over or turning away. If needed for protection, pick up branches and rocks from higher areas.
  • Be cautious of behavior including visual crouching and auditory hisses and screams.
  • Back away slowly while facing the animal. Remain calm and do not run.
  • If approached, make yourself appear larger and more aggressive. Open your jacket, raise your arms, and throw rocks or sticks to discourage predatory behavior. Speak loudly and slowly.
  • Report the sighting immediately to Forest Service or Arizona Game and Fish Department.

If attacked by a mountain lion:

  • Fight back with whatever you have at hand without turning your back. Go for the eyes.
  • Try to remain standing to protect your head and neck. Do not play dead.

Report Mountain Lion Sightings and Encounters

Call the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center front desk at (520)749-8700

Arizona Game & Fish Department (520) 628-5376

Coronado National Forest (520) 388-8300


Mountain lions are the most active during dawn, dusk, and evening hours. They are opportunistic predators and will hunt smaller and larger animals depending on hunger and prey availability. A lion’s typical prey base consists of ungulates (hoofed animals), such as deer and desert bighorn sheep. They also eat javelina, rabbits, cattle, small rodents, birds, and reptiles including desert tortoises. In residential areas, they also have been known to prey on pet dogs and cats.

Mountain lion print in the dirtThese big cats are well-adapted, apex predators with solid muscle and the capability to leap up to 20 feet and outrun deer for short distances. They are excellent climbers and can swim when necessary. Their home range extends 100 miles, and an adult male can travel up to 25 miles in a single night.