Leopards have the largest range of any of the big cats found in both Africa and Asia. They are the only big cats found in both deserts and rainforests, and their habitats include grasslands, mountains, and even coastal areas. Because their distribution is so large, they run into many other large predators, including two other big cats. Leopards are recorded to share habitats with tigers, lions, hyenas, African wild dogs, dholes, or Asian wild dogs, wolves, and bears.
As the smallest of the big cats roaming Africa and Asia, leopards can be preyed upon by both lions and tigers, especially when they’re young. However, these big cats will often avoid each other, preying on different species if the resources are available. Packs of hyenas will also hunt leopards, either killing them for food or running the leopard off their prey and stealing it. Leopards have been seen fighting with bears in Asia as well, but in most cases, this leads to severe injury or death to both parties.
One thing that sets leopards apart from lions and tigers is that they are powerful climbers. Leopards climb trees often, using them as a perch to pounce on their prey from above. They are known to carry three times their body weight up trees and often hide kills in trees to return to them later. In environments where their prey could get stolen by another predator, leopards will use trees to protect their kills. Other predators have adapted to this behavior, though. Lions and hyenas have been seen stealing leopard kills from trees.
A study demonstrated that in the places leopards and tigers coexist, they will hunt at different times, hunt for different prey, and occupy different habitat space. The study used the Royal Chitawan National Park in Nepal between the months of December 1973 and mid-April 1974. Through observation and tracking, it was determined that the leopards and tigers generally don’t interact. The tiger was more often seen hunting and using the long grass, while the leopard would hunt in the forest. They did not frequent the same areas. Overall, neither cat was particularly active around midday. The tiger was more active around morning, as well as midday during February, March, and April when the weather was warmer. On the other hand, the leopard was more active during the day and evening in March and April.
In addition to activity and habitat, the tiger and leopard differed in the food they consumed. The two cats were killing and consuming almost all the same species of prey. However, the size of the prey made a difference. On average, leopards killed and consumed prey in the 55-110 pound range, with a maximum of 330 pounds. On the other hand, tigers killed and consumed prey in the 110-220 pound range, but would hunt prey up to 770 pounds in weight. The leopard would kill new prey once every 6 days, while the tiger averaged 5-6 days.
This study explained some of the conditions that allow these big predators to coexist. It also demonstrates that leopards are extremely versatile, adapting to live with other predators that could kill them.
We have two leopards living at TCWR: Spyke and Selbit. Come visit them in our Discovery Area!