The main difference between males and females is their size. Females also raise the cubs alone. Mountain lions are successful predators that roam all across North and South America. While males and females are similar, there are also differences between them.
As is the case with many other mammals, male and female mountain lions are different. This is true for both physical and behavioral traits.
Male and female mountain lions are both skilled, powerful hunters. They are some of the best predators in their environments. But males and females aren’t on completely equal footing.
In this article, we’ll go over the main differences and similarities between male and female mountain lions, and we’ll find out how we can tell them apart.
Male vs. Female Mountain Lions: An Overview
Male and female mountain lions are similar. As they are part of the same species the differences between the two are minimal. Some of the main differences between them are size and mating behavior. Males are generally larger and they don’t help the females raise the young.
Here you can see how a female stacks up against a male in size:
|6 ft 9 in
|7 ft 10 in
Males are on average larger than females by one-third.
While there is a small size difference between the sexes, both male and female mountain lions are dangerous animals.
Main Differences Between Male and Female Mountain Lions
The main physical difference between male and female mountain lions is their size, with males being larger than females. Behavior also differs a lot. Females raise the cubs alone and males are more competitive amongst themselves.
Male and female mountain lions have plenty of differences. These differences are a result of sexual dimorphism.
Sexual dimorphism is a condition in which the two sexes of the same species have differences as a result of evolution. These differences can be physical, such as color and size, or behavioral.
Depending on the species, differences between sexes are more or less apparent.
Mountain lions don’t exhibit a particularly high degree of sexual dimorphism. Like most other mammals, males are larger than females.
Here are a few of the main differences between male and female mountain lions:
- Males are longer.
- Males are heavier.
- Females are less solitary. (they tolerate other females close to their range)
- Males are more territorial and aggressive.
- Females raise the cubs alone.
- Home ranges of females are half the size of males’ range.
Besides their genitalia, the main physical difference is their size. This is apparent when comparing males and females side by side, but difficult to notice otherwise.
The differences in behavior are much easier to spot than physical differences.
Females raise the cubs alone, actively keeping them away from males for their safety. A female’s home range can also slightly overlap with another female’s one. They are somewhat tolerant of each other, while still actively avoiding contact.
Males are much more territorial and aggressive than females. Their home ranges never overlap. When they do meet each other, they often fight and kill one another if one doesn’t back down first.
There can only be one dominant male in a range. Around this male’s range, a community of females can form. Individuals within this community are somewhat sociable towards each other, and less so with outsiders.
They even reciprocally share kills.
Main Similarities Between Male and Female Mountain Lions
Mountain lions, males and females share a lot of common characteristics. They look similar and are difficult to distinguish from a distance. Their behavior, especially hunting behavior, is also similar.
Males and females are of course part of the same species, so they are exceedingly similar. They look and behave likewise to one another.
Here are some of their biggest similarities:
- They have identical coat colors.
- Their markings are similar, the only difference is a black dot on the male’s backside.
- They both hunt in a similar fashion.
- They have similar diets.
- They are mostly solitary animals.
- Both males and females breed with multiple partners.
- They reach sexual maturity around the same time. (1-3 years old)
- They stop growing around the same time. (3-5 years old)
It’s clear that male and female mountain lions are similar. Visually, because of their color and markings, they are hard to distinguish from a distance.
When it comes to hunting, they have similar behavior. They both use ambush hunting to catch their prey by surprise.
One difference in hunting behavior is that males can catch larger prey because they grow larger.
Male and female mountain lions can mate with multiple partners. Because of this, mountain lions are super fecund, like common cats. This means a litter of cubs may have different fathers.
Male vs. Female Mountain Lion Sounds
Male and female mountain lions make the same sounds, but they use some of them differently from one another. Unlike males, females use some sounds to communicate with their cubs. Males also scream while fighting, while females scream to attract males when in heat.
Male and female mountain lions generally make the same sounds.
The noises they make also sound similar, and while they probably sound different to them, we can’t tell them apart by sound alone.
Both males and females make sounds that can be placed in the following 5 categories:
- Whistles and chirps
- Hisses and growls
- Screams or screeches
While they make the same sounds, male and female mountain lions have different uses for some of them.
Because females raise cubs, they frequently use meows, whistles, and chirps to communicate with their offspring. Males have no need to use these sounds like this.
They also scream in slightly different situations. Both males and females scream and screech while courting each other. But, males also scream when fighting for territory or mating.
Females scream to attract males when they are in heat, and males answer them with similar sounds.
How To Tell Male and Female Mountain Lions Apart
Male and female mountain lions are difficult to tell apart. Physically, males are larger than females, but young males may be smaller. A sure way to differentiate them is by looking at their backsides, as all males have a distinct small black dot.
Male and female mountain lions look similar to each other. It’s hard to tell them apart by size alone. They also hunt and act in similar ways most of the time.
One dead giveaway that you’re looking at a female is if she’s followed by cubs. Male mountain lions kill cubs (sometimes even their own if they don’t recognize them).
The surest way to tell them apart is by looking at their backsides. Males have a distinct, small black dot that females don’t have.
When do Male and Female Mountian Lions Meet?
Male and female mountain lions only meet to mate. Mountain lions are solitary animals that avoid contact with other animals, including other mountain lions. When females are in heat, they call the males in the area by screaming.
Mountain lions avoid contact with other mountain lions. But females and males have to meet for breeding.
When a female is in heat she screams to call all the males in the area to her.
After mating, females actively avoid males. When the litter is born, males are dangerous around the cubs, as they will try to kill them. Females will try to keep their cubs as far away as possible.
Male and female mountain lions are similar. They look almost completely the same and generally behave similarly too. Males are larger on average, and they don’t help females raise cubs. If you ever want to tell a male from a female, the safest way is to look for the characteristic black dot that males have on their backsides.