Lions are apex predators and are often referred to as “kings of the jungles.” They are feared and respected across the animal kingdom, and they will eat pretty much any prey that they can catch and kill.
Lions are obligatory carnivores; they must hunt animals and eat their flesh to survive. But where do deer fit into this? Do Lions go after them?
Don’t worry; this article will take you through everything you need to know about where deer lie in a lion’s food chain, from whether lions eat deer to the ways lions hunt them.
Do Lions Eat Deer? Lion Vs Deer
Yes, lions will kill deer and eat them happily. Lions are apex predators that will gladly eat anything they can catch, and this includes deer.
A lion’s favorite prey are ungulates (a scientific term for hooved, herbivorous mammals). So, this includes deer along with zebras, gazelles, buffalo, and even some larger animals like and even larger animals like rhinos, elephants, and hippopotami.
Moreover, deer are one of the preferred prey of lions as they are easier to hunt. They aren’t as dangerous to take on as other animals like elephants, rhinos, and hippos – which are capable of injuring or even killing a lion while defending themselves.
They are a safer option for the lion as they can’t fight back, and all they can do is run, hoping to escape. Also, they are easier when compared to other ungulates as they don’t possess the sturdiness of wildebeest or the speed of the springbok.
Because of this reason, deer are targeted by even other predators such as cheetahs and hyenas.
How Do Lions Hunt Deer?
Lions are flesh-eating, warm-blooded creatures who have to hunt and eat animals to live. Compared to other big cats, they have an interesting way of hunting that allows them to take down their prey.
Lions are pack hunters (live and hunt in prides) and ambush predators (use stealth to sneak up on and ambush their prey). Typically, when they hunt in prides, some of them sneak up and observe their prey from a distance.
This will allow the lions to chase the prey toward the ambush for the other lions to take down. They surround from every direction and attack together.
Also Read: Do Lions Eat Rhinos?
When talking about hunting deer, lions use a technique called “sit-and-wait” hunting. They will quietly stalk their prey (deer), staying out of sight to avoid alerting the deer. They just wait for the right moment to attack and single out a weak, sick, or young deer from the herd, as they can be an easier target.
Deer can be faster than gazelle, making them hard to chase down alone. So, the lion will try to steer it toward the other lions lying in wait. And whenever the lion feels that it got the deer in this process, it will strike it with all its power.
The other lions use their incredibly strong claws and teeth to drag the deer to the ground when it comes near them.
It is well-known that the female lion (lioness) hunts most of the time in the pride while the male lion guards from any other sudden predator attacks. It doesn’t mean the male lions cannot hunt; they just stay behind and protect the rest of the pride.
But in some cases, a male lion has to hunt alone when it is outcasted by the pride when it reaches a certain age. These young male lions will be cast out of the pride by the king of the pride to remove the competition.
Hunting alone can be a bit more difficult than hunting in pride, so in the majority of cases, these solitary lions will usually try to scavenge for food or steal food from other predators.
Do Lions And Deer Live Together?
Though it is common to call lions “king of the jungle,” they don’t actually live in the jungle but prefer grasslands and savannahs. However, deer live all over the world – in fact, they are one of the most widely spread animals on this planet and can be found practically anywhere apart from Antarctica.
Deers live in many habitats, from lush grasslands to dense forests and even on the plains of Africa, where they must feed on the sparse vegetation to survive.
It is said that there is only one indigenous deer species in Africa – the Atlas (Barbary stag), but they mostly live in the mountainous areas of the continent’s northeast and are out of a lion’s range.
The most commonly found species of deer in Africa are mule deer and whitetail deer, both of which are hunted and eaten by the majestic beasts.
Also Read: Do Lions Live In The Desert?
Even though lions frequently hunt and eat deer, they are more likely to hunt the antelope and gazelle species that live in the savanna, as these are far more prominent in numbers and are typically easier to catch than deer due to their slower speed. But still, deer are a main feature on a lion’s menu.
Do Mountain Lions (Cougars) Eat Deer?
Yes, mountain lions, also known as cougars, do eat deer. They are one of the biggest predators of deer and can be seen almost everywhere the deer are present in North America. Mountain lions are known to kill large prey species with regularity; usually, one deer-sized animal is killed every six to 12 days.
So, when they have the option to kill deer, they will just go after them. It is common to see that mountain lions living in coastal areas eat more deer than those living in mountain regions. On mountains, they may go after elks.
Considering the facts, like a lion’s impressive hunting skills and a habitat that overlaps with deer, it’s only natural that they eat the deer whenever they get a chance.
However, as the number of deer present in Africa is a bit less comparatively, the frequency of deer hunts can be less, too. But as we know, some lions are spread across some Asian countries, including India, where deer are common; lions living there may eat more deer than African lions.