Growing Up Wild: Mountain Lion Cubs, Part 1

Ah, to be a cub again! While we can’t quite go backwards in time and relive our youth, we can always appreciate new life around us and the universal struggle towards adulthood (which may be the part some of us don’t miss so much).

Mountain lion kittens look quite different from their adult counterparts, entering the world deaf, blind, and weighing only a pound. The ravenous newborns, usually twins, quickly double their weight within 2-3 weeks; at this point they can see, hear, and explore the world with wobbly legs. Since mom must continue to hunt to replenish her milk, baby mountain lions are sometimes left alone in their den. Their dark spotted coats mimic shadows on rocks and leaves, breaking up their visual outline to help keep them hidden from predators.

As the cubs grow they eventually begin to lose their spots, which fade after 3-4 months and are faint by the time cubs are a year old. This is a time of great change for mountain lion kittens, whose eyes begin to shift from blue to amber. They are weaned at 2-3 months and begin to accompany their mother to kills, learning what’s good to eat and rambunctiously playing with their siblings (and sometimes their exasperated mom) to improve future hunting skills.

Though not as helpless as they were at birth, juvenile mountain lions have yet to face their hardest trials in life. Next time we take a look at “teenaged” mountain lions and what it takes to grow up into one of North America’s top predators!

Aaron Huelsman

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