Ten Mammals That Are Carnivores


Carnivorous mammals are animals that exclusively eat meat. Such animals are well adapted to feeding on flesh. They derive nutrients and energy from a diet consisting of animal tissue, and this can either be through predation or scavenging.

There exist two types of carnivores; obligate and facultative carnivores. 

Obligate carnivores can also be referred to as true carnivores. They have a diet that is mostly composed of flesh and rarely consume plant matter.

Most obligates cannot digest any plant matter because they lack the required physiology for this process. It is believed if an obligate mammal happens to ingest vegetation, then it is only to induce vomiting.

In such a situation, the animal will bring out previously ingested foods that may be causing a stomach upset together with the vegetation.

Facultative carnivores are animals which consume meat, and also small amounts of plant matter.

Here are ten mammals in North America that are carnivorous.

If you want to know more about herbivores, I have written an article which you can read here.

Gray Wolf

The gray wolf is among the largest carnivores in the dog family. They prefer to feed on large hoofed animals such as moose, elk, deer, mountain sheep and caribous. 

Gray wolves are social creatures and travel in packs as well as hunt together. They take turns to chase prey to exhaustion before then finally killing it. 

A single wolf is capable of consuming up to 20 pounds of flesh in one feeding. This mammal has an exceptional sense of smell and hearing. They pick up the scent of prey and then stalk it. When the right moment comes, the pack will pursue the victim, making the kill. 

Gray wolves can run at fast speeds to catch prey. A wolf can run at speeds of up to 35 miles in an hour. They have powerful limbs and claws to hold down prey. Wolves take down animals by latching onto the rump area.

The gray wolf also feeds on rodents, rabbits, beavers and many other small mammals.

I have written an article on ten mammals that are omnivores which you can find here.

Polar Bear

Polar bears are one of the most adaptable animals, considering the extreme conditions in which they live. They have specific physical characteristics to enable them to search and hunt for food in the arctic snow and ice.

Polar bears are avid carnivores, with their primary food consisting of seals. Ringed and bearded seals make up most of the polar bear diet. 

Polar bears are equipped with a unique sense of smell and sight. They can easily locate a seals breathing hole even if it is one kilometer away. 

After locating a potential meal, the bear walks stealthily towards the hole and lies in waiting. This can take up to several hours. At some point, the seal will breach the water in that particular ice hole. The bear will smell the seal’s breath and spontaneously launch an attack. They use their sharp claws to drag out the seal and bite into the skull to kill it.

Polar bears hunt seals which are also resting on top of the ice. If they smell a seal nearby, they will stalk them, suddenly rushing forward to attack. 

Polar Bear
Polar Bear

Aside from seals, polar bears also eat beluga whales, walruses, aquatic birds, reindeer, rodents and caribous. Polar bears will also scavenge on carcasses that they find.

Want to know more about polar bears. If you have, here are 101 facts that you may find interesting.

Coyote

Coyotes belong to the dog family and are carnivores. Coyotes are facultative carnivores, adapting to incorporate plant matter in their diet. However, this is usually in minimal amounts, and when meat-based food is scarce.

Coyotes are primarily carnivores and spend a considerable amount of time hunting various animals. A coyotes staple diet consists of animal meat from deer, hares, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, birds, fish and amphibians. They also scavenge on kills from other animals.

Coyotes are adapted to hunting prey. They have sharp teeth and claws for ripping and tearing flesh.

Additionally, coyotes have a keen sense of smell. They can easily catch the scent of prey even from a few miles away. Their success in hunting is further aided with high running speeds up to 40 miles in an hour to catch up with a meal. 

Ever wondered whether coyotes can swim. If you have, this article I have written here will answer that question.

Mountain Lion

Mountain lions are considered generalist predators because they will catch and kill almost any animal that comes their way. 

While they are known to eat large mammals such as deer or moose, rabbits and other small animals are no exception.

Mountain lions have extraordinary leaping capabilities which they use when catching prey. They will also use the ambush strategy to catch their prey unawares. 

The mountain lion has to eat at least 10 pounds of meat in a single day. Mountain lions have to hunt to make a successful kill.

Mountain lions are mostly found in the rocky and bushy areas since they make the best places for stalking. However, this animal has other hunting strategies. 

The large, wide paws enable it to walk and run easily in the snow. This means that it can hunt well even in winter. 

When a mountain lion catches up to the prey, they use their sharp teeth that deliver a deep suffocating bite to the neck. This is enough to instantly kill prey or cause massive bleeding that will weaken it sufficiently. 

Ever wondered if mountain lions attack people. If you have, I have written an article which you can find here.

Black-footed Ferret

Black-footed ferrets are long, slender mammals that rely on prairie dogs as their primary source of food. They are exclusively carnivores and feed only on meat. Prairie dogs make up about 90% of the ferret’s diet, but they can also feed on other small animals.

In some regions, prairie dogs hibernate during the winter season. This means that the black-footed ferrets have a limited diet at this time. On such occasions, black-footed ferrets tend to feed on mice, rabbits, birds, voles and ground squirrels.

Black-footed ferrets are nocturnal, hunting at night. They have exceptionally large eyes with excellent vision, backed up by a powerful sense of smell. 

A combination of sight, smell and hearing help them hunt in the dark. Furthermore, they have sharp claws for attacking and holding onto prey during hunting sessions. 

Black-footed ferrets have a strong jaw, and along with sharp teeth are enough to deliver a fatal bite which instantly kills prey.

Weasels

The weasel is a ferocious carnivore for its size. They are considered one of the smallest carnivores in both North America and the world. 

The weasel is an adept predator, hunting both day and night tirelessly. Their ardent appetite fuels their rapid metabolism. 

Their diet mainly consists of mice and moles. However, they also hunt down other small animals such as rabbits, chipmunks, rats and shrews. When their preferred prey is scarce, weasels are forced to gorge on frogs, fish, insects and eggs.

This small mammal is an opportunistic predator and will rarely pass on the chance to prey on any small animal that comes its way. 

Also, the weasel is known as a bloodthirsty and ruthless creature. They have a reputation brought about by how they eat and kill prey. They administer a fatal bite on the skull and feast on the brain.

Ever wondered the difference between a stoat and a weasel. You can find out in an article I have written here.

Jaguar

The jaguar is a deadly predator and is known to eat over 85 species of animals. Jaguars are powerful and fatal carnivores as they can hunt both on land and in water. 

Jaguars have a preference for large prey but will eat almost every animal that it finds. 

Jaguars will prey on deer, moose, armadillos, peccaries, rodents, turtles and even birds. 

Unlike other big cats, jaguars are excellent swimmers. They take advantage of this opportunity to catch and feed on fish as well as turtles. 

Jaguars can also climb trees. Jaguars tend to climb onto trees and snatch monkeys or birds from their nests.

When a jaguar is living near a human settlement, they may prey on livestock including cattle and sheep. This is the main cause of conflicts between humans and jaguars.

To find out more about these beautiful animals, I have compiled 101 facts which you can find here.

American Badger

The American badger is a carnivore feeding on ground squirrels, moles, marmots, pocket gophers, prairie dogs, woodrats, kangaroo rats, voles, deer mice and pika.  

American badgers also eat snakes as part of their diet and are a significant predator of rattlesnakes.  

Badgers will also prey on lizards, amphibians, smaller skunks, carrion and fish. They also prey on birds that nest on the ground such as sand martins.  

Badgers are nocturnal but can be seen during the day in areas with low human populations.

American badgers have been seen hunting in conjunction with coyotes. When an animal sees a coyote, they will generally go into their burrow, whereas when they see a badger, they will come out of their burrows. By working in tandem, the prey is unsure what to do. Badgers expend less energy while hunting in burrows than above ground.

Walrus

Carnivores are not only restricted to the land but also survive in water as well.

The walrus is a carnivore surviving on a diet of meat. They prefer molluscs such as clams. They will also eat gastropods, crustaceans, cephalopods, sea cucumbers and other small soft-bodied animals.  

Walruses may also eat carcasses of young seals when other food is scarce. Some walruses will eat seals, with bearded seals and ringed seals making up their diets.  

Walruses eat up to 6% of their body weight in a day, with some adults feeding on up to 6,000 clams in a single feeding session.

It has been noted that walruses usually fill their stomachs twice daily.

Walruses forage on the bottom of the ocean, with most feeding taking place between 10-50m below the surface. They rely on their vibrissae (whiskers) to locate food when in deep, murky waters.

Blue Whale

The largest animal to have ever lived on Earth, the blue whale is considered a carnivore.

They eat large amounts of krill, small shrimp-like animals. Krill usually grow between 1 – 2 cms, although they can grow up to 6 cm.

Blue whale

Blue whales are baleen whales. They filter their food through baleen plates, eating krill and copepods. They take in huge amounts of water with the food in, before pushing the water back out through the plates using their tongues. This allows them to use the plates to strain the water out but keeping the food inside.  

A blue whale can eat up to 8,000 lbs of krill every day. This amounts to approximately 40 million krill per day. The blue whales have such a large stomach that to fill their stomach would take an estimated 2,200 lbs of food.

Ever wondered where you can see blue whales. I have written an article which you can find here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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