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Mountain Lion Did Something Totally Unexpected

Mountain lions are not commonly thought of as animals that swim, at all. Let alone swimming long distances. But one adventurous cat has just proven that that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Mountain lion

A new study recorded Nolan, a young male cougar, paddling two-thirds of a mile from the mainland of Washington State to an uninhabited island in Puget Sound. This was a major surprise and "totally unexpected." But it got researchers wondering how many islands might be habitable by mountain lions - if the animals can regularly swim this far, then they can likely inhabit more than half of the area’s 6,513 islands, scientists determined.

The researcher dug deeper and in historical records found evidence of mountain lions inhabiting an additional four islands beyond the range of this youngster’s swim: all over a mile from shore or the nearest island, reports National Geographic. This suggests the animals can swim even farther at times, perhaps close to a mile and a quarter. Why? Young male mountain lions often undertake difficult and long journeys in search of new territory, as was the case for Nolan.

“We are redefining the mountain lion in our minds as an animal that can swim and is willing to swim,” says study co-author Mark Elbroch, who leads the puma program for Panthera, the global wildcat conservation organization.

The paper was published in the journal Northwestern Naturalist.

Close up of a zebra's face


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