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An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in most American habitat types.It is the second-heaviest cat in the New World, after the jaguar.While large, it is not always the apex predator in its range, yielding to the jaguar, gray wolf, American black bear, and grizzly bear. Fatal attacks on humans are rare, but have recently been increasing in North America as more people enter their territories.Intensive hunting following European colonization of the Americas and the ongoing human development of cougar habitat has caused populations to drop in most parts of its historical range.
In the latest genomic study of the Felidae, the common ancestor of today's Leopardus, Lynx, Puma, Prionailurus, and Felis lineages migrated across the Bering land bridge into the Americas 8.0 to 8.5 million years ago (Mya). North America was then repopulated by a group of South American cougars.
"Cougar" may be borrowed from the archaic Portuguese çuçuarana; the term was originally derived from the Tupi language susua'rana, meaning "similar to deer (in hair color)". It may also be borrowed from the Guaraní language term guaçu ara or guazu ara.
Less common Portuguese terms are onça-parda (brown onça, in distinction of the black-spotted [yellow] one, onça-pintada, the jaguar) or leão-baio (lit.
Adult males are around 2.4 m (7.9 ft) long from nose to tail tip, and females average 2.05 m (6.7 ft), with overall ranges between 1.5 to 2.75 m (4.9 to 9.0 ft) nose to tail suggested for the species in general.
On average, adult male cougars in British Columbia weigh 56.7 kg (125 lb) and adult females 45.4 kg (100 lb), though several male cougars in British Columbia weighed between 86.4 and 95.5 kg (190 to 210 lb).
In the 17th century, German naturalist Georg Marcgrave named the cat the cuguacu ara.