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Is that a mountain lion, cougar or puma?

Narrator:       This is Science Today. Is that a mountain lion, a puma or a cougar? The answer is, all of the above. Wildlife ecologist Chris Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, explains why there are so many names for mountain lions.

Wilmers:        Pumas, cougars, catamounts, panthers — it probably stems from the fact that mountain lions have the largest latitudinal range of any mammal species. They go all the way from the southern tip of South America up to southeast Alaska. And you know, throughout that large range, lots of different cultures calling them different things and so they've picked up a lot of names along the way.

Narrator:       Wilmers leads the Puma Project, which tracks mountain lions in the Santa Cruz Mountains using a sophisticated GPS collar that downloads their position and movement and includes a compass.

Wilmers:        From that we'll be able to not only get data on where the animal is, but what they're doing and so we can understand how they behave differently when they're near human development or far from it.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.