Pumas have the largest geographic range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, occupying every major habitat type of the Americas from Alaska down to the southern tip of Chile.
Although pumas are adaptable and resilient cats, they have been eliminated from the entire eastern half of North America, with an exception of a remnant endangered subpopulation that still persists in Florida. However, records suggest that their numbers are increasing in northeastern Canada as well as in the Midwestern part of the United States.
Despite reports that pumas are increasing in portions of the United States, the species is considered to be declining as a whole. Nonetheless, pumas are still hunted legally in many western states—California and Florida are the only two states where hunting is banned.
Our three resident pumas that live in Big Cat Falls—Dakota, Cinnabar, and Sage—were orphaned when their mother was killed as a result of a legal hunt in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Too young to make it on their own in the wild—and considered “nuisance” or “problem” animals in many western attitudes—the trio would have been euthanized if not for the Philadelphia Zoo stepping up to take them in. The trio thrived at the Zoo, and as a result, they are now happy, healthy and mature 8-year-olds making full use of the rotational exhibits and Zoo360 crossings in Big Cat Falls.
By Jen Robertson, First Niagara Big Cat Falls Keeper