Well, today's episode was of particular interest to me. Today, two of North America's top predators met face-to-face (in cyberspace) to battle it out for hunter supremacy: the wolf versus the cougar. I figured I'd share the results with you, my friends... I know that at least a few of you (*cough* redwolf and pheral *cough*) will be interested in the findings. >:D
In one corner...
We have the cougar! Also known as the mountain lion or the puma, this is North America's biggest feline. Weighing in at 200 lbs and about 7 feet long from nose to tail, this pretty kitty has 2.25 inch longs fangs and can jump 20 feet in a single leap. She's an excellent hunter, with an 80% kill rate -- four out of five hits are successful -- not surprising since she aims to severe the spinal column with one bite to the back of the neck. She prefers the stalk and ambush method of attack, and can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour for short bursts when pouncing on unsuspecting prey. Her only rivals (besides man) are the bear and today's competition, the wolf. But that's not all this pussy cat has going for her!
Her powerful jaw full of 30 teeth aren't Miss Cougar's only weapons. Even though her two and a quarter inch long canines can penetrate through bone and her carnassials (cutting molars) slice through flesh like a hot knife through butter, cats have themselves another very effective tool at their disposal: their paws. With retractile claws an inch and half long, the cougar can strike with its paw at 17 feet per second. That means she can pack two thirds of her weight behind each blow, landing about 120 lbs of whack! with one swipe. And if that's not enough, cougars never attack from a standstill. They charge in hard and fast, leap and pounce on the prey with 14,000 ft-lbs of momentum at impact. (Visualize a cougar pouncing on a moose, and the force of impact actually throws the moose back a few feet. Whoa!) Then while the prey is lying stunned by the powerful whumping, little miss cougar uses all of her paws 'n' claws to hold and position her target for the few seconds it takes snap a neck with a 300 lbs per square inch bite. Go kitty!!
But not to be outdone...
We have the wolf! To make up for the kitty's larger size, an alpha male Timber Wolf (one of the largest you'll ever meet) is the chosen opponent of the lupine pack. And speaking of packs, though he'd normally have his at his back to help him win the fight, today he's wandered off alone and must prove his worth all by his lonesome. But that's okay, because he's no lightweight! Weighing up to 150 lbs and standing 3 feet high at the shoulder, this puppy may be smaller but he's more than up to the task. His jaw is nearly three times longer than the cougar's, full up with 45 flesh-tearing and bone-crushing teeth, topped by four interlocking fangs an inch and a half long. Those teeth were designed to lock in and hold on... once he gets the bite on you, there's no escape from the 500 lbs of pressure he's gonna use to keep his grip.
Now, normally this puppy would work together with his pack mates to run their prey into the ground. They aren't just strong, they're fast and determined too. Wolves can and will reach speeds of 40 mph while on the hunt, and chase their prey up to 12 miles at a non-stop run. That's means he's got buckets more endurance than the big kitty, so if he can survive the puddy tat's first strike, chances are good he'll outlast the exhausted feline in a game of one-on-one. That's good, because while he can put about 9000 ft-lbs of momemtum behind a punch -- more than enough to land a killing blow -- he doesn't have a very good track record at hunting with only an 8% success rate. Which means it's a good thing wolves rarely live on their own, and can rely on their pack mates to help them in the crunch.
But how will the lone wolf fare against a roaming cougar? According to all of Animal Face-Off's analyses and data, here's what would happen...
The cougar catches the scent of death on the air and moves in to investigate. What she finds is a large male wolf scarfing down on the remains of last night's dinner while the pack's off taking a nap. Cougar drops to her belly and waits motionlessly in the grass, licking her lips as she eyes the ravaged elk carcass. But Wolf ain't no fool, and quickly spots/scents her. He whirls and growls threateningly at the interloper invading his territory. Cougar, knowing the jig is up, crouches into a defensive position and hisses back. The challenge is laid, the fight is on!
Wolf snarls and lunges at the startled cat, grabbing at the nearest flesh and sinking his fangs in deep. Cougar twists and bats at Wolf's muzzle with her powerful paws, jarring him loose. But that doesn't deter him and Wolf moves in for another strike. This ain't over yet, he's just getting started! Cougar, on the other paw, is quickly tiring and aware she can't hold out for much longer. So she rolls onto her back, wraps her front paws around the attacking wolf, and rakes deep grooves into his flanks with her inch-long hind claws.
Wolf yelps and falls back, injured but not out. Neither is Cougar! She's exhausted and only has one chance left or she's toast, so before Wolf can recover she's up and pouncing on his back with all her weight! In seconds, she's in place and rears her head back to make the killing bite to Wolf's nape... He's pinned, he can't do anything to stop her -- COUGAR WINS!!!
Well, not exactly... *eg* Because if we really want to do this realistically, then Cougar's about to be vastly outnumbered. Wolf's howls and yelps of pain have brought his pack running, and if Cougar wants to get out of there with each of her nine lives intact, she's got to start skedaddling fast! Which means no time for the final bite... lucky Wolf!
So in the end, both predators will survive the encounter and the question of who's better, cat or dog, goes unanswered for another day. ;) But we've all been thoroughly entertained, and maybe even learned a little something too. Yay, Discovery Channel!
Tell me, who would you root for? :D