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Coyote vs. Mountain Lion

This is a dark mountain lion stalking its prey.

Coyotes and mountain lions have a lot of similarities. For example, they both hunt small prey like rabbits or deers. However, there are also many differences between the two species.

Coyotes and mountain lions are two different animals that live in very different habitats. Coyotes occupy the east coast of North America whereas mountain lions can be found on the west coast as well as throughout Canada and Mexico.

Read on to learn more about coyotes and mountain lions!

Coyotes are often confused with mountain lions. They may look similar, but they’re actually very different animals. Coyotes typically weigh less than 20 pounds, while a mountain lion weighs between 80-150 pounds.

And while coyote pelts have been mislabeled as “mountain lions” for years, there is no such thing; we only know what they look like because of their close resemblance to one another! Mountain lions prey on deer and other large mammals like elk or moose, but coyotes feed on rodents and rabbits instead.

What is a mountain lion?

This is a close look at the face of a brown mountain lion.

A mountain lion, also called a puma or cougar, is a large cat. It’s similar to a domestic cat, but it’s much bigger. In fact, mountain lions can grow up to 2 meters long and weigh 70 kilograms!

Mountain lions live in the northern part of the Americas and their habitat stretches from Canada all the way to Argentina.

What is a coyote?

This is a gray coyote close look at the face.

A coyote also called a prairie wolf or brush wolf is a wild dog. It’s smaller than a mountain lion and it has pointier ears, long legs, and a bushier tail. Coyotes look like small wolves (but they aren’t related to wolves at all). They’re usually tawny brown with cream-colored bellies and darker fur on their back, tail, face, and ears.

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Differences in Physical Characteristics

This is a mountain lion protecting her cubs.
  • One major difference between the mountain lion and the coyote is their size. The average mountain lion weighs 70 kg, whereas an average coyote weighs only 17 kg.
  • Another difference is their coat colors; mountain lions are tawny brown with cream-colored bellies, darker fur on their back, tail, face, and ears. Coyotes are usually tawny brown with cream-colored bellies and darker fur on their back, tail, face, and ears.
  • The mountain lion is a much larger animal than the coyote. An adult mountain lion weighs between 100-180 pounds. Since the mountain lion is bigger than the coyote, mountain lions also have longer legs and larger paws compared to a coyote.
  • Mountain lions also have long tails that help them keep their balance as they run. Coyotes don’t have such long tails and instead, they walk on their toes.
  • The coyote has a larger nose compared to the mountain lion which allows them to sense an animal’s presence from far away. Coyotes also have pointier ears and larger eyes than mountain lions.

Differences in Behavior

This is a pack of coyotes with gray and brown fur at a grassy area.
  • Mountain lions are solitary animals except during mating season. They hunt alone and some experts are not sure if they are social at all. However, mountain lions are often spotted together in the same area. Mountain lions are very good at hiding and they are excellent climbers which allows them to hide and ambush their prey.
  • Coyotes live in small packs which include 15-35 members. Packs are family groups of coyotes that live and hunt together. Coyotes are social animals and they communicate with each other by barking, howling, and yipping. Since coyotes are social animals, they will often hunt together in packs.
  • Coyotes are also very good at hiding and they have excellent hearing. They can hear the slightest sound from a long-distance away. Coyotes have strong teeth that are perfect for tearing their prey apart. Mountain lions have weak teeth that aren’t very good at tearing meat.
  • Instead, mountain lions hunt by ambushing their prey. They use stealth, the element of surprise, and suffocation to kill their prey.
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Differences in Habitat

A mountain lion resting atop a large rock.
  • Mountain lions live in America and their habitat stretches from Canada all the way to Argentina. The mountain lion prefers to live in places where there is an abundance of prey. They often live at higher elevations where hunting is easier due to the scarcity of food.
  • Coyotes lives in field and forests. They can also live in suburban areas as long as there is a good source of food and water. They live in dens on the ground, but they will also dig their own den if there is no pre-existing den.
  • Coyotes prefer to live near other canines.
  • Coyotes are also found in desert areas where there is a great abundance of prey. Coyotes hunt animals like rabbits, rodents, and deer.
  • Coyotes are great swimmers and they often swim across rivers to find food. They will even eat fish if it’s available.
  • Coyotes don’t need to drink a lot of water. They get most of their hydration from the food they eat which is usually meat.
  • Mountain lions are good swimmers and they can swim long distances. Since mountain lions live in places where there is an abundance of prey, they usually do not have to travel very far in search of food.

Differences in Diet and Prey

This is a brown male coyote at a grassy area.
  • Both the mountain lion and the coyote prey on small animals like rabbits, deers, and smaller mammals. The coyote is not as well-adapted to hunting large animals compared to the mountain lion. For this reason, the mountain lion has a larger diet compared to the coyote.
  • Mountain lions usually hunt alone and they kill their prey by biting its neck or breaking its spine. However, when attacking large prey like the deer, they will use their claws and skin to grip onto the animal.
  • Lions also hunt larger game like deer and elk. While coyotes eat rodents, rabbits, and other small prey.
  •  Lions are known to have attacked livestock, but not domestic pets. Coyotes occasionally attack livestock but are unlikely to attack domestic pets.
  • Coyotes hunt in packs and they use their pack size to confuse the prey. The coyote will make sharp turns while chasing its prey until it tires out and they can easily attack it.
  • When it comes to hunting, mountain lions are very efficient hunters; they often use the element of surprise when they attack their prey.
  • Coyotes are good hunters, but they’re not as efficient as mountain lions. Coyotes will often hunt in pairs or small groups to bring down larger prey.
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Differences in Life Span

This is a close look at a snarling mountain lion.
  • Mountain lions live an average of 10 years in the wild and up to 24 years in captivity.
  • Coyotes live an average of 7-10 years in the wild and up to 14 years in captivity.
  • Coyote pups are born in an underground den or hollow tree. They are blind at birth and they depend on their parents for three months after birth. They’re weaned by four months of age and they can hunt on their own at eleven months of age.
  • At six weeks, the pups are playing with their siblings and learning how to hunt. By 12 weeks, they have learned how to hunt on their own.
  • Mountain lions are solitary and they will only come together to mate. Mountain lion kittens learn how to hunt on their own and it usually takes them six months to a year to be on their own.
  • Mountain lions are solitary animals who only come together to mate.

The biggest difference between these two types of animals is that mountain lions live in groups, or “pride,” and raise their young together, while coyotes are normally lone individuals. Both animals have several other names including puma, panther, cougar, and catamount.

In some countries, people call mountain lions “jaguarundi” and coyotes are also called “brush wolves”.

Conclusion

The mountain lion is a much larger animal than a coyote. An adult mountain lion weighs between 100-180 pounds while an average coyote only weighs 17 kg. The mountain lion has a bigger nose, longer legs, and larger paws compared to a coyote.

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Mountain lions have long tails that help them keep their balance when running while coyotes don’t have such long tails and instead, they walk on their toes.

The differences between a mountain lion and a coyote include their size, coat colors, length of legs and tail, habitat, behavior, diet and prey, and life span.

References:

The Human Footprint: A Mountain Lion’s Penchant for Coyotes

Quora: Do mountain lions eat coyotes? Why or why not?

Las Palmas Mexican Restaurant: mountain lion vs coyote size