Puma concolor, cougar, mountain lion in Mayan stories

My first experience with a cougar (Puma concolor), mountain lion, in Belize

While leading a group of tourists to learn about the Mayan ruins of Belize and adjacent Peten, we heard about a local person who had a puma wandering around his house.

Since I wanted to learn about felines, I asked if I could get to know the puma, in-person. Note: this was an adult puma, not a cub.

Nicholas Hellmuth with puma Belize
Fortunately I was naïve and unaware that pumas were potentially more dangerous than jaguars. However one advantage of treating this FULLY GROWN puma without me being afraid, is that my body did not exude any of the fear chemicals.


So the puma was let loose in a field for me to interact with it. Note: no fence, no wall, no collar. This puma was able to run, jump, go wherever it wanted to.

Of course I wanted to have the puma pose with me. So I asked Eldon Leiter to use my Hasselblad and take a snapshot. But he was so nervous that the puma would attack him (and then eat me for desert) that he was not able to focus. So the photo is a tad out of focus.

I am glad that I had not read the book by Paula Wild, The Cougar: Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous. This book describes every fatal puma attack on men, women, and children in the USA. This book also describes all the kinds of injuries from people who crossed the path of a puma (faces torn off the skull, arms torn out of the socket, etc).

But since I want to interact, in-person, with animals, so I can learn their personality, I simply sat down and tried to reach an understanding with the puma.

Mayan comic book character list, names, with pictures

With each Mayan animal I try to get to know the animal up close and in-person.

Puma concolor AutoSafari Chapin July 2012 10K8426



Do not attempt to pose with a puma (also known as cougar or mountain lion). Even “tame” pumas have been known to shred people to pieces..

So do not follow the example of Nicholas and look for a puma (in Mesoamerica or USA or Canada) to interact with. This is a good example that attending Harvard and being a post-graduate fellow for many years at Yale is no guarantee that you don’t make serious errors of judgment (such as posing with a puma without fear).

But we seek to show the plants and animals of the Mayan civilization to the world, and our style is to obtain knowledge first-hand and in-person.

I have definitely learned a lot about flora and fauna from having been in Mesoamerica since 1962.