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Amur Leopard: Ecology

Map of Far Eastern leopard's range over the last 2 centures
Habitat loss has resulted in significant
reduction in the Amur leopard's
range over the last 2 centures.
Today the leopard is confined
to a small sliver of land in SW
Primorsky Krai, on the Russian-Chinese
border (shown in darkest red).

Population and Distribution:

The range of the Amur, or Far Eastern, leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) originally extended across Northeast China, the Korean peninsula, and the southern third of Primorsky Krai, Russia. Today, however, only an estimated 25-40 leopards remain in a thin sliver of habitat in Southwestern Primorsky Krai, along the Chinese border, with a few individuals wandering into China.

Amur leopard numbers have been reduced via overhunting of prey and poaching combined with habitat loss from agricultural and urban development. However, both camera-trapping and snow-tracking surveys indicate that the population has been stable over the last 30 years, but with a high rate of turnover of individuals. If appropriate conservation actions are taken, there is great potential for increasing population size, increasing survival rates and habitat recovery in both Russia and China.

Physical Description:

Amur leopards are much smaller than tigers, with males weighing 50-60 kg, and females a lighter 30-35 kg, with body length reaching about 1.5 m. Though the Amur leopard is similar in stature and strength to other leopards, there are differences between this northernmost subspecies and its cousins to the south. Amur leopards have longer limbs, allowing them to walk in the snow. The color of their fur changes seasonally, from a reddish yellow in the summer to a light yellow in the winter. The length of their fur also can change with the temperature, from 2.5 cm in the warmer months to 7 cm during the coldest times of the year.

Reproduction and Life Span:

Breeding can take place year round, and average litter size is 2-3 cubs. Amur leopards can live up to 20 years in captivity, but the average lifespan in the wild is unknown. A male leopard radio-collared at 2-3 years of age by WCS scientists in 1994 was photographed during camera trapping surveys in 2003, proving that leopards can live more than 10 years in their natural habitat. However, results of WCS camera-trapping research indicate that mortality rates in the wild may be very high.

Home Range:

Preliminary results from camera trapping suggest that Amur leopard home ranges overlap considerably. Females maintain home ranges that vary in size from 40 to 100 sq km, while males can have territories as large as 400 sq km.

Habitat:

camera-trap photo of a Far Eastern leopard, WCS Russia
A WCS camera-trap photo of a Amur leopard.
WCS Russia has conducted camera-trapping in
the leopard's range since 2002, when we piloted
this methodology in Russia. © WCS 2002

Amur leopards live in temperate deciduous and coniferous-deciduous broadleaf forests, and their tracks are often found on ridge tops several hundred meters in elevation. Snow cover is a limiting factor, and it appears that leopards cannot survive further north, where snow is too deep in the winter. Forest cover is important to leopards, yet much of their habitat in Russia has been converted into unsuitable savannah-like grasslands by annual fires.

Prey:

Leopards prey on sika deer and roe deer, and occasionally wild boar but small mammals, including weasels, badgers, birds, and mice make up a significant portion of their diet, especially in the summer months.

Learn more about threats to the Amur leopard's survival.
 

 

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