Pumas survive in the wild by using their stealth and power to prey on other animals. Their long hind legs are ideal for leaping and sprinting, and their powerful jaws and large paws with retractable claws enable them to grasp and hold prey.
Pumas are obligate predators, meaning their diet is exclusively meat. Their primary prey consists of species of large deer such as white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk, but they also attack bighorn sheep, wild horses and domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and horses. When large animals are not available, pumas feed on almost any animals they can catch, including beavers, raccoons, hares, mice, birds, reptiles and insects. The puma is usually an ambush predator, lying in wait for or stalking its prey before leaping from cover and delivering a suffocating bite to the neck. When a puma kills a large ungulate, it drags it away to a safe spot, covers it with foliage and returns to it over and over for days.
Pumas are solitary animals and usually avoid being seen by humans. After mating, female pumas raise their cubs alone. They are very protective and are willing to attack animals as large as black bears to ensure their cubs' safety. Once the cubs are weaned, their mother slowly and methodically teaches them to hunt. When they are about 2 years old, they go off on their own. Pumas generally live about 8 to 13 years in the wild. The most frequent causes of death include disease, disability, accidents, starvation, encounters with other pumas and human hunting.