“Holy Crap, Look at All That Poop!”

Dave DeGroot and Dan Collins (both Cohort 2) recently investigated a huge “puma latrine” in relatively flat desert terrain northwest of Tucson. Dave says that when he first discovered almost 2,000 large pieces of scat in the main and adjoining areas measuring about 50 square yards, he was amazed and puzzled. “Am I looking at a giant kitty litter box?” he wondered.

He called in his friend Dan Collins, who gives puma presentations as a Volunteer Interpretive Ranger at Saguaro National Park West.

“Yep, it’s a puma latrine,” Dan confirmed when he saw the site. 

Multiple cats (a.k.a. mountain lions or cougars) have been known to defecate in a relatively small area. It often starts when a female puma is raising kittens and does her business at a distance from the offspring, so predators will not be attracted to the den. As time passes, the growing cubs use the same area. Then a wandering male or two may defecate and urinate, and the site becomes a kind of community bulletin board for the big mammals.

Dan says the location of the site, in a large expanse of relatively flat desert, illustrates why naturalists prefer the name “puma” for the big cats, as opposed to the common name, “mountain lion.”

“If you have the mindset that these animals are mountain dwellers,” he says, “then you can miss signs of them in the flat desert. Many individual pumas, in fact, frequent the lowlands.”

Before the monsoon rains darkened them, hundreds of pieces of mountain scat appeared to be pale gray or white.

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