Mountain Lion Screams: What Does a Cougar Sound Like?

mountain lion scream
Mountain lions make sounds similar to house cats, including meows, purrs, and hisses. They will also produce a "blood-curdling" scream when attacking their prey. Cougar vocalizations include a raspy sound called chuffing.

Mountain lions, also called cougars, are one of the most feared animals in North America. These powerful predators can easily take down an adult human and kill livestock and other animals.

While they typically avoid humans, sightings of cougars are becoming more common as their population rebounds. Mountain lions typically hunt alone and prefer to ambush their prey from behind or below.

However, there have been reports of cougars playing with their food, biting, and clawing at it for hours before finally killing it. This behavior is more common in younger mountain lions that haven’t yet learned to kill efficiently.

They follow their victim until they are within range and then pounce, using their powerful hind legs to knock the animal down. Once the prey is down, the cougar will go for the throat, suffocating or crushing it—in most cases, death is quick and merciful.

While mountain lions eat just about anything, they prefer deer. A single cougar can kill up to 250 deer per year. They will also eat the smaller prey, such as rabbits and rodents, and attack livestock.

What Kind of Sounds Do Mountain Lions Make?

In the woods, mountain lions make little noise. Typically, they sound like birds chirping in the wood or people whistling. Mountain lion sounds are comparable to those of regular domestic cats, but their sound is akin to a big-sized cat when they growl.

Mountain lions aren’t known to make any unique sounds which are different from other big cats. You might only hear a mountain lion make a distinct sound when they’re mating.

During this time, male mountain lions will make a low-pitched bellowing sound that you can hear up to three miles away. Other than that, their sounds remain consistent with those of other felines.

Some of the ordinary sounds these wild animals make at night include a low, raspy growl or a series of short grunting sounds. Small cats make a high-pitched cry that sounds like a house cat.

mountain lion prowling like a cougar in green grass

Do Mountain Lions Scream at Night?

Mountain lions make a raspy, purring sound known as chuffing. Chuffing is used as a greeting between mountain lions during mating rituals and as a sign of contentment.

However, during mating season, mostly at night, male cougars scream. The carnivores often break their silence and make a loud, long mating call to let any female mountain lions in the area know he is available and looking to mate. The female will answer back with her call, and then they will both meet up.

The large cats are nocturnal animals, so they are most active at night. However, this does not mean that they spend all night screaming. They usually are silent most of the time, only making noise during mating rituals or when they are content.

It is most likely a mountain lion if you hear any of these noises at night. However, it is probably not a mountain lion if you hear a loud screech.

Do Bobcats Sound Like Mountain Lions?

Bobcats are perhaps the closest relatives to mountain lions. In addition to living in almost identical regions, they make similar sounds.

While mountain lions and bobcats can make similar sounds, some key differences exist in their vocalizations. For example, mountain lions tend to have deeper voices than bobcats. Bobcats also have shorter calls overall.

Mountain lions make various sounds, including hisses, growls, purrs, and screams. The most common call is a blood-curdling scream.

Bobcats also make several vocalizations, including growls, snarls, hisses, mews, yowls, and wails. The most common vocalization is a scream that sounds like a screaming woman.

Therefore, if you hear a short, high-pitched scream in the night, it’s likely a bobcat, not a mountain lion.

cougar at the entrance to a cave den

What Should You Do If You Hear a Mountain Lion?

While they may be intimidating, cougars are quite shy and reclusive animals. Being calm and avoiding direct eye contact is essential if you find yourself face-to-face with a cougar.

Try to appear as big and large as possible, and make noise by clapping your hands or shouting. In most cases, the cougar will flee if it feels threatened. However, if it does attack, fight back with everything you have.

Cougars are typically scared off by aggressive behavior, and attacking back is often the best way to survive an encounter. If you’re lucky enough to hear a mountain lion in the wild, keeping your distance and avoiding confrontation is best.

If you reside in a region where cougars are known to roam, it is vital to be cautious to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property. Keep pet food and garbage securely stored so that cougars are not attracted to your home.

mountain lion laying its head on a rock

When hiking or camping in cougar territory, keep your campsite clean and free of food. Never walk alone, and make noise while you are on the trail so that cougars know your presence.

Being cautious can help avoid negative interactions with these amazing animals.


Erika is a Denver, CO native. She graduated top of her class with a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Bioscience. She’s passionate about the protection of wildlife and humane management of varmints. On this blog, Erika shares in-depth tips on everything varmints from guides, and removal, to detection and prevention.

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