California Clash: Who Emerges Victorious in a Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion Battle?


Written by Abdulmumin Akinde

Published: January 18, 2023

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Black bears and mountain lions are among the top predators in the animal kingdom. Each one is a “king” in its own right. Fighting in the animal kingdom is as common as you have among humans. Animals can fight for territory, food, or a thousand other reasons. If you’ve ever wondered which animal is likely to emerge victorious in a black bear vs. mountain lion battle, here’s a breakdown of how the showdown might go. 

Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion — The Black Bear

Black Bear on road Mt Rainier, Washington

Black bears can also be found in mountainous areas with high vegetation.

© Lee

The black bear (also called the American black bear or baribal) is a species of bear native to the North American region. It occupies a vast area of the forest region in North America but os now mostly restricted to sparsely settled forests. Black bears can also be found in mountainous areas (between 1,300 and 9,800 feet) with high vegetation. This is an area where they’re likely to cross paths with a mountain lion. Contrary to popular belief, a black bear would prefer to flee than fight when faced with the choice. However, this takes nothing away from their fighting ability. 

Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion — The Mountain Lion

mountain lion

The mountain lion is fast and strong.

©Jim Cumming/

The mountain lion, also called puma, panther, or cougar, is a big cat native to the Americas. It has the widest ecosystem range of all mammals in the Americas. It can live anywhere, including forests, mountains, wetlands, and deserts, as long as there’s food (prey) and shelter. Like other big cats, they’re fast, strong, and fierce and can hold their own in combat against most animals. 

The Key Factors in a Fight Between a Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion

There are several factors to consider to determine who comes out victorious in a fight between a black bear and a mountain lion. Some of the key factors to consider are size, speed, survival skills, and offensive prowess. 

Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion: Size 

The black bear is a stocky, large animal. Their body length varies from 4.3 to 6.2 feet, with some growing up to 6.6 feet. Averagely, black bears weigh between 132 and 661 pounds. It has a small head placed stockily on its strong neck. This animal has extraordinary physical strength, and its curved, nonretractile claws make it a fierce opponent to fight against. 

The size of mountain lions varies based on their geography, but they’re usually between six and eight feet long. The most notable feature of this animal is its long tail, which takes up about one-third of its body length. Mountain lions weigh between 110 and 200 pounds.

A black bear is bigger in size and weight than a mountain lion. So, considering their body sizes, the black bear has an advantage over the cat. 

Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion: Speed and Movement

Even though they look big and stocky, black bears are very fast — much faster than humans, at least. They have a top speed of about 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour). They also have incredible agility for such large animals, as they’re known to climb trees as tall as 100 feet within seconds. 

Mountain lions have very quick and powerful legs. They can run as fast as 50 miles per hour (80 kilometers per hour). Like most other big cats, they’re unbelievably agile, covering a distance of 45 feet with a single jump. Their agility also allows them to leap as high as 18 feet toward a branch and drop from a height of 65 feet without sustaining any injuries. 

While a bear is also very fast and agile, the mountain lion wins this round easily. 

Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion: Physical Defence

Black bears can stand on their hind legs and fluff their furs to make them appear bigger to their opponent. They growl, woof, snap their jaws, and pound their paws against the ground. They also have tough skin, making it harder for opposition hits to penetrate. 

Mountain lions have a relatively larger size than most mammals. They rely on this, as well as their speed, aggressiveness, and terrifying scream, as their defense mechanisms. While this might be good enough to put off many animals, it’s unlikely to work against a black bear. 

A black bear has a better defense than a mountain lion, giving it the upper hand in a fight. 

Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion: Attacking Prowess

The primary weapons of a black bear are its teeth and forepaws. The black bear maintains a bipedal position when fighting, allowing it to hold and grapple its opponent. They can land powerful blows with their paws and cut them with their four-inch-long claws. Between the holding and grappling, it also bites the opponent until they give up and run away. The teeth are 2.5 inches long, and it has a bite force of over 800 PSI (pound per square inch). 

The mountain lion fights mainly with its teeth. It inflicts damage on its opponent through a series of strong, powerful bites. Its teeth are about two inches long, and it has a bite force of 400 PSI, which is considerably lower than a black bear’s. It also has a claw, 2.5 inches long, which is used to cut and hold the other animal. 

In a fight, the black bear has a massive advantage over the mountain lion because of its stronger bite force, larger body frame, weight, and longer claws. 

Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion: Intelligence and Senses 

The black bear has strong senses. They can smell things as far as a mile away and see 50 yards out, even at night. They also have better hearing than humans. These heightened senses prove they have a high intelligence level. The black bear is also very curious and communicative. 

Mountain lions are intelligent and corny cats. They live a solitary and territorial lifestyle. They use physical signs, such as feces, claw markings, and pheromones, to mark their territory. 

Black bears appear more intelligent than mountain lions, which can come in handy if they get into a fight. 

Who Wins a Black Bear vs. Mountain Lion Fight?

The black bear wins the battle against a mountain lion.

This black bear vs. mountain lion fight has an overwhelming winner. Every indicator points to the black bear emerging as the victor in this matchup. It has a bigger body frame, which it first uses to scare off opponents, and an effective defense mechanism. 

The bear’s attacking ability also overshadows the lion’s by far. Its bite force is twice the mountain lion’s; it can stand on its hind leg, grapple with its long claws, and also land strong punches. The only thing the mountain lion has over a black bear is speed and agility. However, the black bear is also quite fast and agile. The bear is also the smarter animal in this matchup, so the mountain lion can’t outwit it. 

This fight isn’t going to end in a blow, though. It will likely last several minutes unless one of them (presumably the lion) retreats. If it’s a fight to the death, the bear may end up killing the mountain lion, but it won’t be an easy fight. 

The mountain lion’s only chance of winning the fight is if it makes the first attack from behind. This is how it hunts, attacking its target from behind and landing a ferocious bite to the neck, followed by many endless bites until the animal dies. If the mountain lion is able to initiate this tactic in a fight against a black bear, it may have a chance to win.

However, the bear has a large frame that makes it harder for the lion to pull this off successfully. Add the bear’s thick fur and sheer strength, and the lion’s chances of victory get slimmer. 

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

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