Featured Story

Historically, Native Americans took on the identity of wild animals to increase their personal power and ability. Today, this practice is continued by college football teams like those at Penn State University. Until the 1880s, mountain lions roamed Central Pennsylvania including a large mountain near State College called Nittany from the Algonquin word meaning "single mountain." In 1904, Penn State adopted the Nittany Lion as its mascot to overcome another big cat, Princeton University's Bengal Tiger. Today, mountain lions are gone from Central Pennsylvania. But perhaps they will return again…outside the football stadium.

EarthTones Archives

EarthTones Home
All text and images courtesy of Watershed Radio. More information can be found on their website.

Nittany Lion
The nittany lion is a mountain lion, or cougar, puma, panther, or Felis concolor, whatever you would like to call it. Although there are still reports of people seeing a mountain lion in Pennsylvania, most of these sightings are unconfirmed or concern escaped animals. There is no proof of a breeding population of mountain lions in this area.

The last known Pennsylvania mountain lion was killed in 1856 in Susquehanna County. This particular mountain lion was mounted and preserved, and the 147-year-old specimen is currently at Penn State University, serving as the real-life counterpart to the University's nittany lion mascot.

Although vanished from the eastern United States, mountain lions still inhabit the western half of North America, and there also is a small population in Florida. Mountain lions are top predators within an ecosystem, and they help to balance wildlife populations. Deer are their primary food source, but their diet can also include other animals like rodents, birds, fish, porcupines, raccoons, as well as livestock and other domestic animals.

About Penn State's mountain lion
Penn State University — What is a Nittany Lion? More about the history of the University mascot and the meaning of the word Nittany. You can also hear the Nittany Lion roar!
For more information and to see a picture of Penn State's mounted mountain lion, visit Penn State's Digital Collegian, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1996.

About mountain lions
"Is that a mountain lion in your backyard?" Article by Gordon Grice in Discover, June 2001, pp. 59-65.
The mountain lion. Information from Desert USA.
For more information about mountain lions and also safety tips when hiking in mountain lion territory, visit the Mountain Lion Foundation-protecting California's wildlife and read their FAQs to find an answer to many of your questions.
The mountain lion. Information from the Animal Diversity Web.
Mammals of Pennsylvania — Mountain Lion also includes a reference to a detailed account of the decline of the mountain lion in Pennsylvania.

About Nittany Mountain
Nittany Mountain is located in the Spring Creek watershed. The Spring Creek watershed community has a map of the area on their website.


Part of the EarthTones Series is made possible by a partnership between GreenWorks, and the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club.