They have the largest geographic range of any native terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, from Canada through the United States, Central and South America to the southern tip of Chile. In total it is believed that they have a presence in 28 countries.
Pumas are known as an “umbrella species” – an animal whose presence balances ecosystems and extends an umbrella of protection for many other species, including humans. As an example, in some countries where Puma numbers have dwindled this has led to an overpopulation of deer, which breed deer ticks and transmit Lyme disease to wild and domesticated animals, and even to humans.
Pumas are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and over hunting of their wild prey base by humans, often influencing increased attacks on domesticated livestock. Because of this, they are persecuted across their range by retaliatory hunting due to livestock depredation, and due to real or perceived threat they pose to humans.
Pumas are legally hunted in many western U.S. states, although hunting was banned by popular vote in California in 1990 (California and Florida are the only two states where hunting is banned). For the endangered subpopulation of Florida panthers, road kills are the principal cause of mortality; heavily travelled roads are major barriers to Pumas across their range, impacting their movements and dispersal patterns, and affecting breeding and their long-term survival.
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