Range of the Puma
Puma concolor once had the most extensive range of any mammal in the Americas (Busch 1996). It roamed from the Canadian Yukon to the southern tip of South America and was well adapted to a wide range of environments: coniferous forests, deserts, mountains, and rain forests.
Today in the U.S. cougars are found in only about half of their original range, primarily in sparsely populated mountain and desert regions in the western U.S. (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) The only cougar found east of the Mississippi River is the Florida panther.
To survive cougars, and all wildlife for that matter, have four requirements: food; cover; water; and space. Food for cougars includes large prey, most commonly deer. Cover can be anything that provides shelter from the elements for resting, places for mothers to conceal their young, or vegetation and objects that conceal them while stalking their prey. Water is rarely a problem for cougars, even in dry parts of the West. They get most of the water they need from the flesh of the animals they eat. However, water does affect the cougars’ habitat and prey and thus has an indirect effect on their movements or areas they use. Lastly, space is needed to ensure all of the above requirements can be found, mates can be located, and for young adult cougars to establish territories of their own.
Dennis Olson observes in his book Solitary Spirits, "The distribution of the cougar can be thought of as a general indicator of the health of the land." What do you think he means?