Night Prowler

Leopard spoor
Evidence from last night. Photo by haraldflach from Pixabay.

The elusive loner who is both nocturnal and powerful enough to carry a 110 lb (50 kg) prey up a tree which helps to stop its kill being stolen.

Leopards are normally light in color with dark rosettes which look similar to their paw print and are unique per individual leopard, much like a human fingerprint. There is also a black variety resulting from a gene mutation which causes melanism, an overproduction of pigment. The interesting thing is that the dark rosettes are still present but not easily recognizable.

Around 11% of leopards are black.

black leopard still has rosettes
Leopard black variety. Notice the rosettes are visible on the rump area. Photo by Daniel Steinke from Pixabay.

Leopards can be found in a number of habitats from rain forest to mountains and onto savannas. Sadly, it is estimated that they are only present on around 25% of their original territories due to erosion of habitat as well as illegal smuggling of skins and body parts for decoration and medicinal purposes.

Leopards are predominantly ambush predators that are also able to perform sprints of up to 36 mph (58 km/h). In the Serengeti leopards have been observed ambushing prey by dropping onto them from trees.

Typically leopards hunt at night but on occasion also hunt in the day. They prefer medium size prey such as impala, duiker, bush buck, springbok, baboons and even cheetah.

Their style of hunting involves stalking to within about 16 foot (5 m) and then rushing or pouncing on the prey. Larger prey is suffocated but smaller prey is dispatched by a bite to the back of the head.

Leopards canines
Leopard teeth. Photo by Alex Strachan from Pixabay.

Hyenas and Lions are the most likely candidates for stealing leopard kills and wont hesitate to kill and consume an adult leopard if the opportunity arises. A leopards defense normally involves retreating up a tree being agile climbers and thereby limiting the direction of attack to one source.

adult leopard in tree
Leopard in tree. Photo by Manfred Bast from Pixabay.

Reproduction in leopards occurs after a gestation period that lasts for around three months, the female leopard gives birth to between 2 and 6 cubs that are born blind and in a den or cave.

The young cubs have a 50/50 chance of survival with the mother moving them every few weeks to increase their chances of survival by ensuring their scent does not attract predators. After 3 months the young leopards will assist their mother in the hunt and by 10 months they are capable of being totally independent. The youngsters typically remain with their mother until they are 18 to 24 months old.

young leopard in tree
Young leopard in tree. Photo by Fanie van vuuren from Pixabay.

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