Mountain Lions VS Coyotes – A Comparison Between Two Predators

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When you think about common land predators in North America, the first ones that often come to mind are mountain lions and coyotes. These predators are both strong and fierce carnivores that can dominate their given territory. However, you may wonder how these two animals compare to each other.

Mountain lions are much larger in both size and weight when compared to coyotes. Coyotes and mountain lions also have different territories since mountain lions love high, mountainous terrain whilst coyotes can live in almost any habitat but prefer open areas like grasslands.

Do you want to learn more about the differences between a coyote and a mountain lion, including who would win in a fight? Keep reading because we here at Floofmania have gathered all the information you need to know!

Where Do Mountain Lions And Coyotes Live?

A coyote lying on a concrete surface with its ears and eyes attentive.

As the name suggests, mountain lions are almost always found in mountains. They like any steep, mountainous area like canyons that let them utilize their climbing skills.

You can learn more about how mountain lions climb in our article, “Mountain Lions: The Great Climbing Predator.”

On the other hand, coyotes are much more adaptable when it comes to habitats. Coyotes have a preference for open areas, but they can live in the following terrains:

  • Woodlands
  • Prairies
  • Subalpine forests
  • Oak savannahs
  • Sagebrush steppe
  • Deserts
  • Temperate rainforests
  • Alpine meadows
  • Open ponderosa pine forests
  • Urban parks
  • Suburban neighborhoods

You can learn more about where coyotes are found by reading our other article, “Where Do Coyotes Live?

How Big Are Mountain Lions Compared To Coyotes?

When it comes to size, mountain lions absolutely dominate coyotes. Mountain lions are significantly larger animals that can reach 2-3 feet tall and up to 8 feet in length. Mountain lions can weigh up to 198 pounds!

Coyotes are small, often being up to 2 feet tall and less than three feet long. They are also a lot lighter than mountain lions since a coyote can weigh around 15-45 pounds.

What Do Mountain Lions And Coyotes Look Like?

A mountain lion's face in profile in front of greenery and rocks.

Mountain lions are large cats that usually have predominantly tan fur with a white chest and belly. They have some black markings on their snout, ears, and tail.

Since mountain lions are cats, they have much shorter and rounder snouts than canines like coyotes. 

A coyote's face looking upward with a blurred rocky background.

From afar, a coyote looks very similar to a collie or German shepherd dog. They have droopy, bushy tails, slim and long snouts, and pointed ears.

Coyotes can vary a lot when it comes to color. Most coyotes are grayish brown while the back of their ears has a reddish tinge. Other coyotes may have a black or silver-gray color pattern.

How Fast Can Mountain Lions And Coyotes Run?

Mountain lions can reach speeds of up to 50 mph, but it does not last long since that speed is for short sprints. Mountain lions are better suited to jumping and climbing.

A coyote can run up to 40 mph, but similar to the mountain lion, the coyote can only maintain this speed for a 1-minute sprint. After a minute of running, the coyote’s small heart will be beating too fast and need to rest.

Here is an example of a mountain lion running:

And here is an example of what coyotes look like when they run:

How Do Mountain Lions’ And Coyotes’ Senses Compare?

Closeup of a mountain lion's face in profile.

Coyotes have excellent senses, having excellent senses for hearing, sight, and smell. When they are in forests with lots of vegetation, they rely mostly on their hearing and sense of smell, and when they are in more open areas like fields, they will utilize their hearing and sight more.

On the other hand, mountain lions are cats. This means that mountain lions have excellent eyesight and hearing but a weak sense of smell.

Cats have weaker senses of smell because they have shorter snouts than canines like coyotes. By having a shorter snout, they sacrificed their sense of smell for a stronger bite force because the bite pressure will be focused in a smaller area.

If you want to learn about one of the mountain lion’s best senses, you can check out our article, “The Mountain Lion’s Eyes and Vision.”

What Are Mountain Lions And Coyotes’ Main Prey?

A mountain lion’s choice of prey is deer and any other members of the deer family, such as elk or moose. Mountain lions are not picky however and will eat small animals like insects, foxes, and rabbits. Some mountain lions have even been seen eating coyotes!

As for coyotes, they will eat almost any animal they can hunt. Typically, they go for small rodents like rabbits because they are easier to catch. However, coyotes often hunt in packs, so they are also capable of bringing down larger prey like deer

You can learn more about what coyotes like to eat in our article, “What Do Coyotes Eat?”.

Who Would Win In A Fight Between A Mountain Lion And A Coyote?

Before we find out if a mountain lion or a coyote would win in a fight, we need to remember the key differences between each animal.

Mountain LionCoyote
Size2-3 feet tall, 8 feet long2 feet tall, less than 3 feet long
Weight60-198 pounds15-45 pounds
Teeth Size2 inches1.5 inches
Speed30-50 mph35-40 mph
SensesSight and HearingSight, Hearing, and Smell

Without a doubt, a mountain lion would overpower a coyote in a fight immediately, especially if it is a fully grown mountain lion. A mountain lion is larger, stronger, faster, and has better defenses than a single coyote.

If we try to even out the odds, let us say that the coyote and mountain lion are face to face in an open field. The coyote can try to go for the mountain lion’s jugular with one bite, but if the mountain lion bites first or swings its powerful paws at the coyote, it is over for the coyote.

If a coyote is in a pack facing a single mountain lion, the odds are more balanced for each animal. However, it may take at least 5 coyotes to overpower a mountain lion due to the sheer size and power difference. 

A mountain lion would definitely lose the battle if it is faced with a family of coyotes. The mountain lion would only be able to attack 1-3 coyotes at a time, so the other coyotes would be able to bite the mountain lion while the mountain lion tries to defend itself. 

But even then, there’s a big chance of several coyotes getting seriously hurt in the encounter, which is why coyotes, even in packs, try to stay away from mountain lions!

If you want to know what a small pack of coyotes looks like during a hunt, check out this video!

Author: Allison Marie Dinglasan

Hello! I am Allison, an avid writer for 6 years with a deep interest in animals since I was a child. I grew up on Animal Planet and animal books and often did rescue work for stray and sickly cats, dogs, and birds in my area, which led to over 60 rescues. My future goal is to be a veterinarian to have a more hands-on approach to helping and learning about animals!

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