How often do Leopards eat?
Leopards go for hunting after every 13 to 18 days time interval if they have killed a large-sized prey that they can go eating for a few days continuously.
Researchers have found out that a leopard can kill about 20 preys in a year, on average. Now, how often they kill and eat depends on their location and what type of prey is available for them.
If the mother leopards are with their cubs then, they will need at least 5 to 6 kg of meal per day, so they may need to hunt and eat after every 3 to 4 days if their prey is a mid-sized animal like deer, impala, goat, etc.
Most of the time, you will find them living alone and so they don’t need that much food. They kill a mid-sized animal after every 7 to 10 days time interval. It’s because they don’t feed all at once, and so can go eating for a few days continuously
They are mostly seen to hunt on mid-sized prey like antelopes, gazelles, deer, pigs, monkeys, and domestic livestock like cows, goat, sheep, and buffalo.
They are solitary animals and their hunting style is not suited for group hunting. Almost, 90% of the time you will find them hunting and staying alone.
For safety, leopards tend to store their kills above on the trees, avoiding disturbance of lions and hyenas that usually try to steal away their kill.
They are only seen living in a group with their cubs during their mating season. Leopards are strictly solitary creatures that only spend time with others when they are mating or raising their young ones.
So, they do normally stay with their mates for some time and reproduce young leopards and nourish them for a while.
Male leopards provide no direct parental care to the young ones and leave them after the youngs are at least 6 weeks old.
Leopards are the 5th largest big cats after the four largest big cats i.e. lion, tigers jaguar, and cougar.
It is to be noted that the leopards are among the smallest in the Felidae family. Weighing in at an average 59 kilograms, leopards are half the size of lions and tigers.
How much can a leopard eat in one day?
It has been known that on average wild leopards can eat around 2 to 8 kg of meal per day. While the captive leopards are known to eat only about 1 to 2 kg of meal per day.
Male leopards eat more than the females in the wild. In most of the places, female leopards can only 2 kg of meal per day, and the male leopards can eat around 3 to 4 kg meal per day.
There is less information about the daily food intake of wild leopards globally, as their food habits naturally vary from place to place.
Researchers say that each leopard accounts for approximately 20 kills in a year. They are opportunistic animals and so, mostly during the scarcity of food they attempt to catch any animal available at that moment of time.
For their daily requirement, they not only feed on the muscles of the prey but also on some parts of the bones and all of the internal organs.
So, if at least they eat around 2 kg of meal per day then this works out at roughly 730 kg of meat per leopard per year. This means that each leopard needs to hunt at least 18 to 20 numbers of prey with each weighing 40 kg per year.
The meal of the leopards generally includes mid-sized animals like antelope, gazelles, and impalas, baboons, monkeys, etc.
They can also feed on small-sized animals like hares, rabbits, rodents, birds, lizards, porcupines, warthogs, fish, dung beetles, etc. Some are also seen to feed on small non-venomous snakes.
Why do leopards hunt at night?
All of the leopards are nocturnal creatures and generally spend most of the time taking a nap on top of a tree inside their respective territories. They only become active at night when they come out in search of their prey.
Human eyesight functions much better during the daytime. Which is just the opposite in the case of leopards as they can see much better at nighttime.
There’s a scientific reason for this. As we know that when the light enters our eyes through the lens inside the eye it forms the image of the object we are looking at on the retina of the eyes.
The retina contains two structures called rods and cones that detect light and send the image to the brain. The rods detect the dim light and the cones can detect the colors.
So, the rods are responsible for vision at low light levels that is during the dim light at nighttime. And, the cones are responsible for vision at high light levels that is during the sunlight in the daytime.
So, humans don’t see clearly during the night time because we have only fewer rods needed to see more efficiently.
We have four times the number of rods than we have cones, but the quantity of rods is too low for better night vision.
And, in the case of big cats like leopards, they can see clearly at night time because they have more rods than those of the cones. They have 25 rods per single cone in each of their eyes.
So, leopards have fewer color-detection power than humans and thus see fewer colors. This less color-detection power due to fewer cones helps the leopards to detect the movement and shape of their prey better at night.
That’s why it is said that the Leopards have excellent night vision, therefore their night shift of hunting is very busy and overall best for them. And, it is also the time when they get most of their successful hunts.
Leopards do have terrific night vision and it is estimated that their vision is 6 times more accurate and sensitive in dim light when compared to that of humans.
This eventually gives them a distinct advantage over some prey species when hunting at night.
Moreover, they do have a reflective coating at the back of their eyes. This gradually helps them to reflect even the small light like the moonlight, making their eyes appear to glow in the dark. This also helps them in a better night vision.
They do also have a more rounded pupil as compared to most of the other animals. So, at night such a round-shaped pupil also allows more dim light to filter and enter the eye. This also gives the leopard a better night vision.
What actually do leopards eat?
Leopards are all carnivore animals and so they will only eat meat by hunting their prey. In the animal kingdom, a carnivore is an animal that gets food from killing and eating other animals.
Leopards do normally hunt and eat their food at night. But, they are also sometimes seen to hunt and eat during the day time as well.
In the wild, they mostly prefer to eat mid-sized prey like young buffaloes, young zebras, young elephants, wild dogs, antelopes, gazelles, deer, pigs, monkeys, and domestic livestock like cows, goat, and sheep.
In the wild regions of Africa, leopards have also been known to hunt and feed on giraffe calves. Leopards can’t kill the adult giraffes as they are too large for them to hunt.
Both street dogs and cats are also the favorite food of leopards in rural regions. While in the wild, antelopes, impalas, and deers are their most favourite meals.
They are also seen feeding on small-sized meals like rabbits, hares, kitten, rodents, birds, lizards, porcupines, and even on some small beetles.
Based on their habitat they have adapted their feeding habits. Just like in the mountain regions you will find them feeding on pigs, and also on porcupines.
In rainforest regions, they generally feed on antelopes and monkeys more often. They can also eat mice, and lizards too.
Those that live near the water bodies like those of the island leopards are seen to feed on water crabs, fishes, and even on baby crocodiles, non-venomous snakes that come to their way.
When in captivity, leopards are provided with a variety of different types of meats, like those of sheep, lamb, goat, rabbit, chicken, and even horse meat.
In captivity, they are often provided with meat added with extra commercial or medicinal calcium, vitamins, fibres, and a lot of other minerals to their daily meal.
In captivity a leopard needs 1 to 2 kg of meal per day. In the rainforest, a leopard is known to feed on medium to large size prey weighing 10-40 kg in every 3 to 8 days.
In the Savannas, that is in those mixed woodland-grassland ecosystems, a leopard prefers eating large prey that weight almost 20-80 kg every 3 to 8 days.
In countries like Iran, they are seen to naturally feed on small-sized preys like Wild sheep, Pig, and Goat.
In the forests of India, they normally feed on small-sized prey like ungulates, goats, giraffes, and pigs. Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in the rural parts of India.
In Africa’s rainforests, they do normally feed on ungulates, primates, large rodents like porcupines, pangolin, and other small carnivores like cheetah cubs as well.
In Africa’s savanna regions, they do normally feed on ungulates, young cheetahs, wild cats, wild dogs, fox, and also on the snakes like python, etc.
So, How does a leopard kill its prey?
They are mostly nocturnal and so they usually hunt at night. However, instances of leopard hunting their prey during the day time are also known.
They have a highly developed nocturnal eyesight and hearing capability that helps them to better detect their prey amidst the crowd, at a perfect angle.
When they are for a hunt, they will first search for their prey using their keen senses. Then they will slowly and quietly move toward their prey with slow and deliberate footsteps.
So, very slowly and quietly they will approach as close as 13 feet (4 meters) near their target prey.
They move so perfectly, slowly, and deliberately near to their prey, that almost 95% of their prey can’t detect the leopard approaching near to them.
In such a manner in will take the position at a closest distance from the prey. That’s called perfection which the leopards are well-equipped with.
And once the leopard is in position, it will suddenly jump at its prey with claws being extended to grab the prey.
As soon as the prey is grabbed, it will bite the throat or the nake of their neck and with its long and sharp front teeth it will prick the windpipe of the prey.
As a result, within a minute or two the prey will die due to suffocation and excessive loss of blood.
Long and sharp front teeth (canines and incisors) are used to catch and kill their large prey by grabbing their neck. While, the trident-shaped cheek teeth are used as a sieve when targeting small prey.
In some cases, if the prey is able to run away, then the leopard will run after the prey to grab and hold it with its teeth and claws.
When it runs, the average top speed of the Leopard is faster than the average top speed of the Lion.
Just to get an idea, you must know that leopards can run after their prey with an average speed of 88.5 kilometres per hour or 55 miles per hour.
They can jump at their prey by leaping at least 6 meters in one bound and jumping about 3 meters off the ground.
After a successful hunt, the leopard will drag its prey up a tree branch that can be more than 15 meters above the ground to keep it safe against scavengers such as lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, and hyenas.
Their long and sharp front teeth (canines and incisors) along with their jaw muscles and bones are the most powerful set of tools that help them drag their large-sized prey for a few kilometers and pull them above the tree.