The Leopard is a graceful animal, after the Lion, it is the next biggest African cat with an average body mass of 140 pounds. Leopards are the least social and perhaps most beautiful of the African big cats. They have an elongated body, relatively short legs, and an abnormally long tail. Leopards are very silent, only occasionally emitting a cough like call.
Leopard can be hunted with a license in Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. In these countries, the leopard is listed as a CITES 1 animal and is considered as threatened by US Fish and Wild Life. However, the import permits are not a problem for an animal which is declared threatened. In the Central African Republic, Uganda, and Ethiopia the Leopard has been declared as endangered and thus, should an animal be hunted in this areas-which can legally be done. US Fish and Wild Life will not issue an import permit so the trophy will not be able to be imported into the US.
Leopard feed on a variety of prey, thy favor baboons, antelope, pigs, warthogs, monkeys, and even domestic livestock. The crude strength of a leopard is indescribable as they are often seen in national parks carrying a carcass equal to their own bodyweight- if not heavier, up large trees where they feed, out of reach from scavengers. Leopards have a big skull for their body size and strong jaw muscles to go with. The African Leopard is also the smallest animal that is known to kill and eat man, especially in deep rural areas in Africa where leopard are feared.
There are two common methods used to hunt the African Leopard, these are baiting and hunting with dogs.
Hanging baits in strategic places is the more traditional way of hunting these cats. Plains game animals which are taken while on safari are cut up into baits and hung up in areas where leopard tracks and/activity has been spotted. Usually, Professional hunters will pre bait an area to get an idea of the Leopard population in the area. A bait is dragged in the area to distribute the smell and then hung up at a height which Hyenas and wild dogs will not be able to reach it. This is done before the hunter is in camp and makes a leopard hunt far more successful. Once a good male leopard has been identified on a bait, a simple yet effective blind is built. The time that a blind is built needs to be planned very carefully as once a leopard has fed on a bait, they do not go far to rest. The best time to enter a blind is just after lunchtime, as the leopard will most likely feed again in the late afternoon. Waiting in a blind can be very frustrating but is worth it. The Leopard is extremely sly and agile and often not heard when coming into the bait or while it is feeding. One needs to remain alert and keep checking the bait while waiting for a leopard to come in, often they catch the professional hunter, cameraman, and hunter by surprise!
Hunting the African Leopard with Dogs is a far more physically demanding hunt compared to the baiting method. Hunting leopard with dogs is done by locating a fresh track and then releasing the trained hounds in the hope that they will pick and follow the scent of the cat. The dogs will chase down the leopard until the cat climbs into a tree, allowing the hunter time to catch up and have a closer look. Sex identification needs to be done very quickly and then one needs to shoot just as fast. Shot placement is vital – as the old saying goes, just one second of contact with a wounded leopard will account for one hundred stitches. Zimbabwe and Mozambique are the only African countries where leopard may still be legally hunted with dogs.
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