When are leopards most active?

When are leopards most active? The answer depends upon the location and the circumstances under which the leopard lives. Although it is true that in many areas leopards are mostly nocturnal, there are exceptions. Where they are hunted extensively or harassed by people they are nocturnal. Leopards are less nocturnal in areas where there are no tigers and lions. Although that is not a fixed rule. For example, a female leopard living in Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal was active at any time of the day or night where the tiger population was quite numerous.

Leopard
Leopard hunting at night to avoid people and more dominant predators. Pic: Pixabay.
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Studies reported that when leopards in the Chitwan NP live at the boundaries, along the park-village interface, they are essentially nocturnal. They do not move around during the daytime to avoid villagers. And when they move around during night-time they do not move as far or as continuously as tigers in the area. They tend to sit and watch which may have been a strategy to avoid tigers and as part of their hunting. In this park leopards rarely travel on the roads for any distance while tigers often did. Tigers sometimes kill leopards in Chitwan NP.

Leopards normally spend the daytime hours resting under vegetation or in burrows made by aardvarks or porcupines in the Kalahari Desert. As male leopards are too big to use burrows they usually rest under bushes and trees. Leopards in the Kalahari Desert move around mainly at night but they often rest during the early part of the night and again just before dawn.

The leopards who live in the Judaean desert of southern Israel rarely hunt at night. They occasionally hunt porcupines or domestic cats where there are human settlements. In this area, the leopard is diurnal meaning active during the day as their primary prey animals are hyraxes and ibex both of which are diurnal.

The leopards are diurnal in the Cape Province, South Africa region of the continent. They show peaks of activity in late morning and again in late afternoon or early evening. They rest from midnight until after sunrise. They mainly prey on rock hyrax which is a diurnal prey animal and not available at night. They also prey on diurnal small antelopes. As a consequence, leopards are active when these prey animals are active.

In Thailand, in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, radio tracked male and female leopards were reportedly just as likely to be found moving around during the daytime as at night-time. Both females and males were active about 49-67% of the time. In another national park in Thailand, the leopards had a similar activity pattern.

Leopards do most of their hunting on the ground. They primarily hunt using vision; locating prey from vantage points such as trees, dune ridges and rock piles. They also locate prey by sound. They investigate distress calls. When leopards were hunted in India, they used a bleating goat to attract leopards.

Competition for food resources from spotted hyenas, striped hyenas, brown hyenas, wild dogs and lions forces leopards to take their kills into trees. Also, any kill made in open habitat might be detected by vultures and they in turn attract other scavengers. In part of the Serengeti and Masai Marra where lions and hyenas are common, leopards often take their kills into trees as a strategy to avoid losing kills to these dominant predators.

Reference: Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist. If you want more precise references, please contact me by email (see menu). Thanks.

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