Montana’s stamp features state flag and mountain lion

The following excerpt from the Summer 2010 issue of Cat Mews gives background information on mountain lions to help promote the release of Montana’s new stamp.

Montana’s Mountain Lions

By Marci Jarvis, Cat Mews editor

Montana’s state animal is the grizzly bear, however, the mountain lion—Felis concolor, ‘cat of a single color’ — is more prevalent. The cat, resting in the snow, is paired with the state flag in part 4 of the Flags of Our Nation series, issued on April 16, 2010.

Each set of ten Flags of Our Nation stamps is sold in coils of 50, with five of each design. The Postal Bulletin describes the stamps as a ‘snapshot of each state.’ Tom Engeman was the artist and Howard E. Paine had the triple role of designer, director of art, and typographer.

According to sources at Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks, about 1800 mountain lions roam in the western section of the state, with “scattered pockets throughout the eastern part.” Wildlife managers use radio collars and “average occupancy rates” to estimate populations.

Mountain lions once brought a bounty in Montana; hunting with dogs has been legal since 1971, while poaching is abhorred. Two hunting seasons close early when the quota is reached. In 2009, more than 300 mountain lions were legally killed as the cats are not “a species of concern”–yet.

Once prevalent throughout the US, North America’s largest feline now roams in only 14 Western states and Florida. Frequent sightings in the Midwest may signal a comeback in those states.

Known as the mountain lion, puma, and cougar in the West; it is called panther, painter (colloquial for panther), and catamount (cat-of-the-mountains) in the East.

Muscular and powerful, this cat can run up to 50 miles per hour.* Males can reach seven to eight feet from head to tail, and weigh up to 200 lbs.

Mountain lions are a reddish-brown, but in colder areas their coat turns a yellow-gray in winter. They have black-tipped ears and tail, a white or beige belly, and white facial markings.

Litters consist of two or three blue-eyed kittens born with a spotted coat and ringed tail to provide needed camouflage.

Prey of choice is most often deer and elk, with an occasional rabbit, but in a pinch, mountain lions—like most cats— will eat whatever rodents or birds are available.

The mountain lion (or panther) is found on more than a dozen U.S. stamps.

Partial List of Sources

*Cougar Fund, http://www.cougarfund.org/conservation.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/livingWith Wildlife.

Rodrigues, Amy. Outreach Coordinator, Mountain Lion Foundation (nonprofit), www.MountainLion.org.; P.O. Box 1896, Sacramento, CA 95812.

Reprinted with permission, © Cat Mews, Summer 2010

Marci Jarvis has been editor of Cat Mews, journal of the Cats on Stamps Study Unit, for ten years. The Cats on Stamps Study Unit is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the American Philatelic Society and the American Topical Association. Cat Mews, the award-winning journal, features articles about new cat stamps from around the world: domestic, wild, heraldic, cartoon, and more. Please visit their web site, catsonstamps.org for more information.

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