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Species Spotlight: Amur Leopard

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/31/2009

This article focuses on the Amur leopard, a big cat that is an endangered species.

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    The Amur leopard is found in the Russian Far East, in some other temperate forests and in the mountainous areas of the taiga. It is a wild cat and is considered one of the rarest big cats in the world. It is estimated that only 35 to 45 Amur leopards remain in the wild. It is severely endangered and these big cats are facing extinction. It is also sometimes referred to as the Manchurian leopard, Siberian leopard, Korean leopard and Far East leopard. These big cats live approximately twelve to fifteen years in the wild and about twenty years in captivity.

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    Physical Characteristics

    Adult male Amur leopards can weigh 80 to 160 pounds and females range from 60 to 120 pounds. Males can reach five to seven feet in length and females can reach four to five feet in length. These cats have long legs that are said to help them when roaming through high snow. Its fur is tan to orange in color and it possesses the characteristic black spots that are seen on all leopards. This big cats coat is much different than that of other leopards because it becomes quite pale during the winter and becomes very bright in the summer to help it blend into its surroundings. Its fur also grows one to three inches in the winter to help it stay warm in the winter months.

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    Reproduction

    Amur leopards breed in the spring and early summer months. Females remain pregnant for three and a half months. They tend to have one to six cubs. Cubs begin to be weaned at three months and taught to hunt. Cubs reach independence at approximately two years old.

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    Range and Habitat

    Amur leopards are most often seen in Southeastern Russia. A few are thought to live in the Chinese Northeast. It is said that a few remain in North Korea, but non have been spotted here. They tend to live in forested areas.

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    Diet and Hunting

    Amur leopards are skilled hunters and tend to hunt most often at night. When hunting they avoid the Amur tiger because these tigers are far more aggressive than the Amur leopard. These leopards are good climbers and swimmers and this helps them in catching and killing their prey. Their diet mainly consists of wild boar, hares, sika, rodents, roe deer and musk and badgers.