Wild Cats- Leopard Ecology and Behavior. Why don’t we study some big cat brother’s ecology and habitat, so we may understand our feline friends little better? Today, we will look into the Leopards.
Leopards are, like lions and tigers, Nocturnal Creature. Leopards generally are active mainly from dusk till dawn, and rest for most of the day and for some hours at night in thickets, among rocks or over tree branches.
Leopards have the largest distribution of any wild cat, occurring widely in Africa as well as eastern and southern Asia, although populations have shown a declining trend and are fragmented outside of sub-Saharan Africa.
Populations in the southwest and central Asia are small and fragmented; in the northeast, they are critically endangered. In the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and China, leopards are still relatively abundant.
Of the species as a whole, its numbers are greater than those of other Panthera species, all of which face more acute conservation concerns.
Leopards are exceptionally adaptable, although associated primarily with savanna and rainforest. Populations thrive anywhere in the species range where grasslands, woodlands, and riverine forests remain largely undisturbed.
The leopard is solitary and territorial; individuals associate appreciably only in the mating season, though mothers may continue to interact with their offspring even after weaning.
Aggressive encounters are rare, typically limited to defending territories from intruders. The higher the prey availability in an area, the greater the population density of leopards and the smaller the size of territories.
The leopard is a carnivore that prefers medium-sized prey with a body mass ranging from 10–40 kilograms (22–88 lb). Prey animals in this weight range tend to occur in dense habitat, form small herds and can be easily captured by the leopard.
However, the leopards can feed on a broad variety of prey, mainly antelopes, deer, and rodents.
Leopard keep themselves to themselves and hunt primarily at night, making them nocturnal, although this does vary from subspecies to subspecies.
The home range of a male can vary from anywhere between 30km and 78km and a female between 15km and 16km. The size of home range depends on the habitat, and the numbers above are only estimates.
Leopards frequently move around their home range, rarely staying in one area for more than a few days. Leopards make calls and marks to ensure other leopards know their location.
It is vital that leopards know each other’s whereabouts when trying to breed. Females are in heat for six or seven days, and in that time they attract males with the smell of their urine.
Leopards breed at different times of the year depending on habitat. Pregnancy lasts around three and a half months and two to four cubs are born in each litter.
Seeking privacy and safety for their young, females find a secluded, sheltered spot to give birth, usually in a cave, a hollow tree trunk, or in undergrowth. Mother leopard keeps them hidden away in the safety of her den for two or three months.
Whilst they are hidden away, their mother will leave, to hunt and feed, sometimes for up to a day and a half.
When cubs reach about three month old, they emerge from their den they are already developed enough to climb trees. Generally only half of the cubs from a litter will survive to adulthood.
Leopards usually live for somewhere between 12 and 17 years.
The leopard depends mainly on its acute sense of hearing and vision for hunting.
Hunting is primarily a nocturnal activity in most areas. Small prey is killed with a bite on the back of the neck, while larger animals are held strongly by the neck and strangled.
Adult leopards are incredibly successful and opportunistic hunters. Their legs are incredibly muscular, and with their powerful paws and jaw leopards easily overpower their prey.
Leopard pounces on their unsuspecting victim, paralyzing it with a bite through the neck. Leopards use their uniquely supreme agility to climb trees with their kill. This keeps it safe from wandering lions and hyenas.
Storing their kill up the tree ensures their food supply for the near future – this is important in the hugely competitive environment they call home.
They safely navigate their hunting at night using their long whiskers to
feel their path through the darkness of this challenging environment.
Also published on Medium.