Far Eastern leopards waiting out low temperatures in caves

Far Eastern leopards waiting out low temperatures in caves

26 January 2018

On the night of 24 to 25 January, Vladivostok recorded its lowest temperature since 2001, -25°C. In a number of other regional districts, this week’s daily average temperature reached 7 to 10 degrees below that. The cold weather that gripped the Primorye Territory during the second half of January affected the behaviour of Far Eastern leopards as well: in order to get warm, these spotted cats tend to hide out in caves, where the temperature remains above zero even with extremely low temperatures outside.


Of all leopards, Far Eastern leopards are most resilient to frost. Their long, thick fur allows them to keep warm in low temperatures, which are typical for Primorye’s south in mid-January.


However, the rare cat’s tropical origin still affects how the Far Eastern leopards fare in low temperatures. For example, their pads, which have no fur to protect their paws from the snow, freeze and sometimes get grazed on ice, Land of the Leopard experts said after analysing the results of photo monitoring. These photographs also proved that the rare cats enjoy spending time in caves, which serve as hideouts for female leopards raising cubs and can also be a great place for waiting out the cold weather.


“In low temperatures, just like now, leopards tend to hide out in order to get warm,” said Viktor Storozhuk, an engineer and researcher at Land of the Leopard. “They often choose smaller caves, where they can heat up the space with their body temperature. I once examined a Far Eastern leopard’s paw prints to learn that it spent several hours in a hollow tree, most likely, to warm up, as well.”


Far Eastern leopards are agile animals. Most of the day, the spotted predators make rounds about their vast territories. However, due to low temperatures, leopards have to make changes to their schedules. In order to spend less energy on warming up, leopards tend to search for sites that are heated up by the sun which offer the most protection from the wind and cold weather, and often wait out low temperatures inside them.


At the same time, no weather can stop leopards from searching for food and hunting. These predators hunt down at least two ungulates per month no matter the weather.