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Mountain Lion vs. Wolf: Differences & Similarities (Who Would Win in a Fight?)

The main difference between mountain lions and wolves is appearance and social structure. Mountain lions are bigger and heavier than wolves. Wolves live in packs, whereas mountain lions are solitary.

Wolves and mountain lions aren’t related, yet they show some of the same behavior, much like other predators.

All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts) x
All Wolfpack Ranks (Wolf Facts)

While they don’t share an ancestry; however, they resemble each other a lot because their ancestors were once related. 

In this article, we will be talking about the differences and similarities between mountain lions and wolves, as well as what happens when they cross paths.

Trait Wolf Mountain Lion
Height 26-33” (66-83 cm) 23-35” (60-90 cm)
Weight 65-175 lbs (30-80 kg) 60-220 lbs (29-100 kg)
Lifespan 10-14 years 8-13 years
Distribution United States, Canada, Eurasia, Africa North America
Diet Carnivore Carnivore

Mountain Lion vs. Wolf Pack

A mountain lion would have no chance of taking down an entire wolf pack. While mountain lions are bigger, it’s not a lot, hence even a couple of wolves can take down a mountain lion.

Mountain lions are typically bigger than wolves and weigh more, while wolves pack together to take down prey much larger than themselves. 

While mountain lions live alone and hunt for small prey like deer, wolves live together in packs and feast on large prey like elk or moose.

Wolves’ pack mentality and structure are what allow them to easier take down large prey. This is their biggest strength and makes up for what they lack in physical size and raw power.

mountain lion head

Mountain Lion vs. Wolf: Who Would Win?

As mountain lions are generally bigger and heavier than wolves, a single mountain lion would be able to take down a wolf in most cases. 

Mountain lions have stockier builds and shorter legs, making them slower but more powerful predators. Wolves, on the other hand, are much faster and agile; they rely on their speed and agility to take down prey.

When a wolf is on its own, they’re not very powerful. It’s even been observed that a human has taken on a wolf.

Mountain Lion vs. Wolf Differences

There are many differences between mountain lions and wolves, which include physical appearance, their origin, distribution, and social behavior.

Physical Differences

One of the biggest differences between mountain lions and wolves is their appearance. Mountain lions are cat-like, while wolves are dog-like.

Generally speaking, mountain lions are bigger than wolves, though it’s not by a lot. 

Adult male mountain lions can weigh as much as 220 pounds (100 kg). Adult female mountain lions will usually be smaller than males at around 140 lbs (64-65 kg).

Wolf weights, on the other hand, vary depending on the subspecies. Gray wolves usually weigh around 80-100 pounds (36-45 kg), while red wolves range from 50-90 pounds (23-41 kg).

Wolves also have a much bigger fur coat, and are typically either gray, black, brown, white, or a mix of these. Mountain lions have shorter hair, as well as whiskers.

Related: Wolf size comparison

mountain lion on a branch

Family: Felidae vs. Canidae

Mountain lions and wolves are from different families. Mountain lions are descendants of the cheetah, while wolves are descendants of an ancient wolf.

Where wolves come from the dog family of “Canidae”, mountain lions come from the cat family known as “Felidae”.

Classification Wolf Mountain Lion
Kingdom: Animalia Animalia
Phylum: Chordata Chordata
Class: Mammalia Mammalia
Order: Carnivora Carnivora
Family: Canidae Felidae
Genus: Canis Puma
Species: C. lupus P. concolor

Habitats & Distribution

Mountain lions have a larger territory than wolves, but these territories can overlap [2]. While mountain lions live in mountain habitats in the Northern parts of America, wolves do roam across North America, Euroasia, and Africa.

While both animals generally keep to themselves, they do sometimes cross paths in the wild, which can result in fights.

mountain lion habitat

Social Behavior

Wolves are pack animals, meaning they live in groups of multiple members. Mountain lions, like all other feline animals (except lions) live alone – with the exception of when they’re mating.

Wolves use their pack to hunt for larger animals, while mountain lions do so on their own. This behavior is also why mountain lions are typically unsuccessful at defending themselves against wolves.

Wolf vs. Mountain Lion Similarities

While wolves and mountain lions are different animals, they do still share some similarities, such as the fact that they’re carnivorous hunters.

Predatory Hunters

Mountain lions are predators that hunt large prey to stay alive. They’ve been known to hunt deer, mountain goats, moose, elk, bighorn sheep. 

They have great eyesight and a keen sense of smell along with great agility which is why mountain lions are very dangerous hunters.

Wolves also hunt for large animals, as they prefer ungulates. These animals, such as moose and elk, provide enough food for the entire pack. Wolf packs can be more effective than mountain lions’ solitary nature. 

Wolves also have a sense of smell that helps them track their prey and communicate with other wolves in the pack for a lethal attack.

Related: What Do Wolves Eat?

mountain lion hunting

Carnivorous Diet

Mountain lions are carnivores that eat large prey, usually deer. They kill their prey by biting on the throat or back of their neck to suffocate them quickly and quietly. 

Wolves are also carnivores and eat large prey, such as moose and elk. However, when food is scarce, they have been known to supplement their diet with plants and other vegetation. Mountain lions do the same.

While none of the animals can survive without eating meat for an extended period of time, eating berries, fruit, and plants, can help them avoid starvation.

Are Wolves and Mountain Lions Related?

Mountain lions and wolves are not related. They belong to different families – mountain lions are Felidae and wolves are Canidae.

Even though wolves and mountain lions aren’t related, they still share some similarities, as stated earlier. This is because their individual ancestors may have been related.

mountain lion in the wilds

Do Mountain Lion and Wolves Get Along?

No, mountain lions and wolves do not get along. They’re both predators, and they’re very protective of their family, territory, and food. Hence, when they meet, it’s typically not a friendly interaction.

Related: Wolves’ Enemies

Do Mountain Lion Prey on Wolves?

Wolves and mountain lions are both predators, so it would be logical to assume that they compete for prey. Studies show, that wolves have a greater impact on the population of mountain lions than humans do. [3]

Related: What eats a wolf?

Do Wolves and Mountain Lion Ever Meet?

Wolves live in many countries and continents on ears, while mountain lions are quite rare. Hence, it’s only natural that they don’t meet very often. 

There are some wolves that prefer to live in mountain habitats, which is often when these two species collide.

Related: Lion vs. Wolf

Conclusion

Mountain lions and wolves are very different animals, yet they do sometimes cross paths. When they do so, the wolves typically succeed, as they rely on their pack for strength. A mountain lion would however be able to take down a single wolf.

They are not likely to have an interaction unless mountain lions get too close to wolf territory or there are other specific circumstances that put them in proximity with each other.

About Dennis Stapleton

Dennis Stapleton has a passion for animals, especially dogs, and their relatives. He’s intrigued by their social structure and loves to write and teach about the world's most popular pet animal.