Leopards of both sexes lead solitary lives on their own territories. Adults stay together mainly when mating, though non-mating pairs also regularly meet and remain together for brief periods. A male’s range can include several female ranges, which are typically much smaller. Adults defend their territories against other leopards of their own gender, though sometimes they allow leopards of the opposite sex onto their home turf. Both sexes delineate their territories by scent marking, accomplished by rubbing their cheeks on trees, spraying vegetation with urine, and depositing scat.
Leopards communicate with a limited range of calls. Their “saw” (also called a “cough” or “rasp”) can be heard up to two miles (3 km) away. Leopards use the saw most frequently at dusk and dawn to alert other leopards that they are near. They also chuff, a kind of a huffing sound, to greet others during friendly encounters, growl, snarl, and hiss during less friendly meetings. Unlike lions, leopards can purr. A female in estrus vocalizes and scent-marks more than usual in order to attract nearby males.
Leopards will hunt any time prey is available, though they tend to be the most active at night, in the early morning, and in late afternoon. Hunting is a solitary activity for these cats. Even a female with older cubs will leave her young behind when she hunts. Territorial, the cats frequently patrol their home range, marking and remarking the borders.
Although leopard populations are extremely successful in protected areas, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies them as a near threatened species. When leopards kill livestock, they risk being killed by ranchers. They also compete with humans for food and are hunted by poachers for their distinctive coats as well as for traditional medicine and religious purposes.