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When Are Mountain Lions Most Active? (Nocturnal Pattern)

Mountain lions are most active at dawn, dusk, and night. They have great vision in both low light and daylight, so they can be active at any time of day. Indifferent of the season, mountain lions are active whenever they can find prey easiest.

Mountain lions have great vision. They see well at night and during the day. But, they prefer to stay unnoticed so they aren’t usually out during the day.

They are considered both nocturnal and crepuscular as they prefer the low light conditions of dawn, dusk, and of night. This is when they generally are most active.

In this article, we’ll discuss when mountain lions hunt, their activity pattern, and how well can they see during the night.

What Makes an Animal Nocturnal, Crepuscular, or Diurnal?

Nocturnal, crepuscular, and diurnal refer to the time of day when an animal is active. Animals that are active during the day and sleep at night are diurnal. Animals that are active during the night are called nocturnal. Animals that are active at around sunrise and sunset are called crepuscular.

Whether an animal is diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular depends on at what time during the day it is active. 

Animals have certain activity patterns because it offers them advantages in terms of survival, hunting, or other aspects of their life.

Diurnal Animals

Golden Eagles

Diurnal animals are active during the day and generally sleep at night. They have this behavioral pattern because of multiple factors:

  • They aren’t adapted to seeing in low-light conditions
  • Many diurnal animals, like humans and other primates take advantage of details that are clearer during the day, such as colors.
  • They avoid many nocturnal predators.
  • In colder climates temperatures are higher during the day. This helps diurnal animals conserve energy.

Many animals that use light to their advantage are active during the day, like eagles, falcons, chimpanzees, and humans.

Nocturnal Animals

Barred owl hunting

A nocturnal behavior pattern is characterized by activity during the night and inactivity during the day. Many efficient predators are nocturnal. 

A nocturnal lifestyle has many advantages:

  • Competition is reduced at night.
  • Staying hidden or stalking prey is easier.
  • It is cooler during the night, so overheating is avoided and water is conserved.
  • Predators that can see at night take advantage of prey that can’t see as well as them.
  • Prey animals that have more diurnal predators diminish the risk of being hunted.

Today, 65% of mammals are active during the night.[1]

Crepuscular Animals

Red fox with mouse in mouth on glade in summer sunlight

Crepuscular animals are most active during the twilight hours, so right before sunrise and sunset. 

Crepuscular animals have unique advantages that other animals don’t:

  • Prey animals avoid nocturnal and diurnal predators.
  • Predators can catch crepuscular prey.
  • Temperatures are lower, and water is conserved.
  • More light than at night, so it’s easier to see.

Activity patterns constantly shift over time in nature. For example, in response to predation at night prey switches to a crepuscular lifestyle to avoid most predators. This change makes predators shift onto a crepuscular lifestyle. Prey will over time switch back to nocturnality and the cycle continues.[2]

Are Mountain Lions Nocturnal?

Yes, mountain lions are nocturnal, but they are also crepuscular. They prefer being active in low-light conditions. As adaptable predators, they shift their activity pattern according to their prey.

Mountain lions act both as nocturnal and crepuscular animals. They are usually active in low light conditions, during the night, or around dusk and twilight. 

As they have great vision, they can see during the lowlight conditions of dusk, dawn, and night.

Mountain lions are elusive, solitary animals. They prefer to stay hidden and avoid contact with most animals, including other mountain lions. 

The reduced light allows them to hide better, which also helps when ambushing their prey.

In North America, the mountain lion’s favorite prey is deer. Deer are mainly nocturnal and crepuscular animals. Mountain lions adapt to their prey’s activity, and following the deer’s behavior are nocturnal and crepuscular.

mountain lions at night

When Are Mountain Lions Most Active?

Mountain lions are most active during dusk, dawn, and night when their prey is active. Prey activity is the deciding factor in mountain lion activity. While they prefer a nocturnal or crepuscular activity pattern, they will hunt during the day if their prey is active.

Mountain lions are great predators and very adaptable. As such, they adapt to the behavior of their prey and switch their activity pattern according to it. 

When the main prey of the mountain lion is more active during the day, the mountain lions will be active at the same time.

In North America, mountain lions are mainly active at night and during the twilight hours. This is because their main prey animals are active around those times. Deer are crepuscular or nocturnal across most of the continent, and in Florida wild hogs are generally active at night.

In southern Chile and Argentina, the mountain lion’s main prey is guanaco or vicuña. Guanacos and vicuñas are diurnal animals so as a response mountain lions in these regions also have diurnal tendencies.[3][4]

When Are Mountain Lions Most Active

When and How Long do Mountain Lions Sleep?

Mountain lions, like common cats, take multiple naps throughout the day. They generally sleep during the daytime for a couple of hours. They wake up if something disturbs them or if they find an opportunity to hunt. Like most felines, they don’t have a set sleep schedule.

Mountain lions usually sleep during the day. 

Unlike humans, they don’t have one long period of sleep after which they stay awake for the rest of the day. They take several naps throughout the day, like common cats.

Like other felines, mountain lions will wake up if they are disturbed by anything or if something grabs their attention. 

They are opportunistic hunters and will seize any chance to hunt.

When and How Long do Mountain Lions Sleep

Can Mountain Lions See at Night?

Yes, mountain lions can see at night. Like other cats, mountain lions have eyes that function well in low-light conditions. They can’t see in complete darkness, but they can see more details with limited light than most animals.

Mountain lions, like other cats, can see at night. They can’t see in complete darkness, but their eyes have evolved in such a way that allows them to discern more details in low-light conditions.

Their eyes are large and have more rods and cones than human eyes. Because of this they have great vision and can also see at night. 

Besides their vision, they also have sensitive hearing, which helps them locate prey and possible threats.[5]


Mountain lions are great predators that are generally active at night, right after sunset, and before sunrise. They are usually nocturnal or crepuscular as they have adapted to their prey over time. 

In regions where their main prey is diurnal, they can also act as diurnal animals. They can hunt both at night and during the day thanks to their great vision which allows them to see in low-light conditions.


Where do Mountain Lions Sleep?

Mountain lions generally sleep in temporary shelters, like patches of dense vegetation or rocky alcoves. Only females with cubs use more long-term dens.

Do Mountain Lions Sleep in Trees?

No, mountain lions don’t climb up in trees and sleep up there. They do sometimes use hollowed-out tree trunks or uprooted trees as shelter.

Do Mountain Lions Come Out During the Day?

Yes, they do. They come out if they have an opportunity to hunt. Being felines, they don’t sleep the whole day through, instead, they take regular naps so they can be seen during the day.

About Codrin Frunzete

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