Tracks in the snow show how leopards get along with tigers

Tracks in the snow show how leopards get along with tigers

18 January 2018

Researchers from Land of the Leopard National Park have established that Far Eastern leopards do not change their home range when they find out that there are Amur tigers nearby. This conclusion was made following a study of the rare cats’ movements based on their tracks in the snow.


The analysis of animal tracks in the snow, or tracking, is done at Land of the Leopard every year in the right weather conditions, that is, when there is enough snow. One of the main goals of tracking in the national park is to assess the distribution of cats and hoofed animals throughout the park. Since the leopard and tiger populations are growing, researchers wonder if these cats have enough prey or have to compete for their hunting grounds.


In the first few days of the tracking campaign this year, Land of the Leopard researchers tracked the routes of several tigers and leopards. They found that the leopards do not avoid the areas that are frequented by tigers. The spotted cats like mountain slopes more than the striped cats. Leopards, which are agile animals and relatively small in terms of weight, instinctively seek refuge in hard-to-reach areas. It is unclear if they also do this to avoid tigers.


“This year’s field campaign has shown that tigers and leopards move along the same routes. Leopards often use tigers’ trails for convenience. The information we collected during the previous two winter tracking seasons indicates that tigers never deliberately stalk leopards. Overall, the data we collected during the previous seasons do not show that the presence of tigers has a negative impact on the distribution of leopards,” said Dina Matyukhina, a senior research associate at Land of the Leopard.


Researchers say that the populations of the Far Eastern leopard and the Amur tiger in the national park have grown simultaneously, which can be seen as indirect proof that there is no competition between them. According to the latest data, there are some 30 Amur tigers and approximately 70 Far Eastern leopards in Land of the Leopard National Park.


Tracking is a way to collect valuable information about the biology and behaviour of wild animals. Researchers follow animal tracks, recording the route and the coordinates of the sites where the animals left their scent, or where they hunted or rested. The park’s personnel also collect their droppings, which can tell them more about the cats’ diet and hormonal patterns.