Camouflaged Mountain Lion Stalks Mountain Goat From Above In Yellowstone National Park

Mountain lions vs goat

Mountain lions (also known as cougars or pumas depending on where you are in the world) and mountain goats are both native to Yellowstone National Park, and they are part of the park’s diverse wildlife. However, they have different ecological roles, behaviors, and adaptations.

Mountain lions are carnivorous predators and are known for their stealth and strength, the former of which is on display here. They primarily feed on deer and other ungulates such as elk, but have been to known to hunt smaller mammals as well as livestock. Solitary animals by nature, they first and foremost known for their ability to ambush and stalk their prey without being seen, and as the old saying goes, if you spot a mountain lion, it most likely spotted you first. They are powerful climbers and swimmers, able to jump and leap across great distances to pounce on their prey.

On the other hand, mountain goats are herbivores and are adapted to graze on alpine vegetation found in rocky mountainous terrain. Skilled climbers adapted to live in steep, rocky environments, mountain goats use their strong hooves and jacked shoulders to navigate steep cliffs and rocky surfaces with ease. Their hooves also have a spongey pad in them which helps with grip. They are typically found in alpine and subalpine environments, often at high elevations where they can avoid even the most able-bodied predators… like mountain lions.

In Yellowstone National Park, interactions between mountain lions and mountain goats are fairly rare. Mountain lions may prey on mountain goats, especially the young or weak individuals, but mountain goats will use their expert climbing abilities to escape and navigate the rugged terrain, making it challenging for mountain lions to catch them.

You can see that scenario play out here as a mountain lion stalks a big goat from above, but ultimately decides to pass on the opportunity. Why? To put it simply… the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze. Sure, the big cat could’ve snuck up behind the mountain goat and pounced, but on that steep cliff, they most likely would’ve both fallen off and then nobody wins. It’s unclear if the goat actually saw the hungry cat, but either way, it knew that it would be safe with its natural “home field advantage” working in its favor.

Guide Michael Sypniewski details the once in a lifetime encounter:

“Mountain Lion v. Mountain Goat. Today on a trip guiding for Wolf Tracker, my guests and I watched a stand-off of epic proportions take place up in the high alpine. In my many days watching mountain goats walk the high ridges of Yellowstone, I dreamt of the chance to see them come face to face with one of the parks most elusive predators.

This was a perfect case of being in the right place at the right time. The sighting only lasted but a few minutes before the cat retreated back into a nearby cave.”

It’s wild to see the ecosystem’s checks and balances play out in real time, right in front of your face.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock