Animal Predatory Techniques and Instinctive Animal Behaviors

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Animal Predatory Skills

Animals develop special skills to kill and eat their food, also known as prey in ecology. These skills help predators identify, capture, kill and consume prey. Predators instinctual traits are enhanced by learning from their Mothers, and litter or pack mates during early development. There are different types of predatory behaviors, ambush, stalking or opportunistic, all of which rely on keen eyesight, sense of smell, speed, agility and sharp body parts.

Keen Senses

Predators will lie in wait camouflaged in order to ambush their prey in its natural habitat. A praying mantis can blend in as a leaf or piece of wood and capture insects innocently feeding. An orca marine mammal uses counter shading camouflage. Its white belly appears like sunlight at the waters surface before the orca dives with torpedo like speed to capture prey at greater ocean depths.

Another technique is to stalk prey, sometimes over long distances, requiring superb tracking skills to identify landscape cues as well as intellectual skills which are used to calculate the energy expenditure necessary to stalk, catch and kill in relation to the caloric worth of the prey. A keen sense of smell and sight induces quick reaction to prey within striking distance and represents opportunistic predator techniques. The Praying Mantis sways its head and uses large compound eyes composed of 10,000 mini eyes to track prey. The Komodo Dragon will dart its tongue to sense the aroma of prey which can lie as much as 2.5 miles away.

Once the predator has been identified and deemed prey worthy of capture, more advanced physical techniques take over.

Killer Speed, Agility, Teeth and Claws

Cougars can travel up to 37 miles per hour stalking their prey and pounce over 20 feet, or vertically 10 feet, for capture. Retractable claws trap the prey, at which time, sharp teeth severe the spine.

All predators rely on sharp teeth or in the case of the praying mantis, sharp, spiked legs to kill their prey. Orcas have 56 razor sharp teeth, each 5 inches long so it can kill and eat 500 lbs of food per day. The Komodo Dragon has 60 teeth, each 1 inch long and serrated like a circular saw that can tear through bones. The Praying Mantis will relinquish it’s prayer stance with cutting speed and spear its prey with spiked legs. It can devour prey up to three times its size. Mice, frogs, soft shell turtles, birds and snakes are all available to this cunning predator, so cunning that Kung Fu masters copy it’s stance and attack methods.

Hunt in Packs

Hunting in packs is a predatory technique used by both wolves and orcas. For coyotes, greater numbers make defending carrion from scavengers easier. There are more mouths to feed, but all calories expended during kill and capture are consumed by the entire pack.

Orcas are more sophisticated. These marine mammals use sonar to organize killings among the pod, locating prey and surrounding it before riping open and letting prey bleed to death as the pod consumes it. Orcas can kill blue whales weighing up to 100 tons, much larger than Orcas. Hunting in pods allows Orcas to be the killer of whales, not killer whales. In reality, orcas are not whales but largest sized dolphins. They get their name, killer whales, because they kill whales.

Predatory Behaviors

Animal predatory techniques are learned early in development. These skills rely on superior intellectual ability to locate prey, calculate energy expenditures for capture, and calorie intake from eating prey. Eye, ears and even tongues enable predators to sense prey. Speed and agility facilitate locating and capture. Sharp teeth, claws and other appendages allow predators to kill and then consume their prey. The driving force to predatory behavior is hunger and ultimately, survival. Animal predators never kill unless they need to eat.


Andelt, Kansas State University, Behavioral Ecology of Coyotes, presented at Wildlife Damage Management, University of Nebraska, 1983

Animal Planet, Nature’s Perfect Predators, Komodo Dragon :

Animal Planet, Nature’s Perfect Predators, Mountain Lion

Animal Planet, Nature’s Perfect Predators, Orcas

Animal Planet, Nature’s Perfect Predators, Praying Mantis