Gone Outdoors

How to Identify Mountain Lion Tracks

by Sports & Fitness Editor

Mountain lions are magnificent animals to view in the wild. Some hunters seek them for the challenge of hunting another predator, while landowners track them to protect their livestock, pets and family. The process of elimination is the best way to identify mountain lion tracks. These steps show you how to start by ruling out dog tracks and then eliminate other species of cats until you can confidently identify the mountain lion. Read on to learn more.

Check for claws in the tracks. Dog or canine tracks always show claws. Members of the cat family can retract their claws to keep them sharp. Unless they are running or pouncing you won't see claw marks in the tracks.

Examine the heel pad. The back edge of cat tracks have 3 lobes while dog tracks only have two. On the front edge there is a single lobe for dogs and a double for cats. Overall, canine prints are oval shaped and cat prints are closer to even circles.

Look closely at the toes. In cat prints the front toes are not lined up evenly. Feline toes have a teardrop shape, while canine toes have a triangular shape.

Measure the track. The best clue that a mountain lion made a track is its size. Full grown mountain lions leave tracks that are three to five inches long. The pad is also large in proportion to the toes and wider than the track is long.

Distinguish the track from a lynx's. Lynx tracks are slightly smaller than a mountain lion's. The excess fur that typically obscures the toes in lynx tracks is the easiest way to identify a lynx tracks.

Tip

  • Mountain lions are also called cougars, panthers and pumas.

Warning

  • Be careful when you are in lion country. Although mountain lion attacks are rare, they happen each year. Avoid getting close and never track alone.