How adaptable are mountain lions?

How adaptable are mountain lions? Habitats in Nevada range from pinion pine and juniper forests to mountain brush and river valleys. Astoundingly, these felines can survive in extreme conditions like the Mojave, North America’s driest and hottest desert.

With temperatures soaring up to 120°F in the Mojave, it’s remarkable how these wild cats survive. In this harsh and dry environment lions rely on sparse coverage, such as thickets and natural caves. Mule deer make up 60-80% of the lions diet and are an essential part of their survival in the Mojave. The desert also provides an array of reptiles and rabbit that lions feast on as well.

Overton, Nevada

Mountain lions have adapted to withstand cold winter nights and blazing hot summer days, giving them a range larger than any other mammal in the western hemisphere. They can be found between the Canadian Yukon where there are subarctic climates to rainforests in Brazil and the pampas in Chile and Argentina. To survive the Yukon, where the lion faces the extremes of winter, lions feast on white-tailed deer, elk, porcupines, and beavers. Scientists believe mountain lions found their way to the Yukon by following deer migrations.


Mountain lions in the west thrive in a vast array of ecosystems from the misty temperate forests of Washington to the intense deserts of Nevada. Just like those who survive heavily on mule deer in the Mojave, lions of the temperate forest also rely on deer. Up in Washington mule deer roam, but so do white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer and elk, providing a greater abundance of dining options in comparison to the desert. With Washington’s temperate forests getting around 14 feet of rain a year, mountain lions here have a different life compared to their desert counterparts. Thick covered underbrush, fallen trees, and rocky overhangs provide welcome cover in such wet conditions.

Mt. Charleston, NV

Lions have adapted to the circumstances of their regional habitat. One thing is true: as long as mountain lions have tasty food available, this incredible cat can survive the harshest conditions. Mountain lions are truly adaptable.

Lisa Wooden

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