Last month we showed off some camera-trap images from Land of the Leopard National Park juxtaposing the relative sizes of the four felids that prowl this large preserve in the Russian Far East's Primorsky Krai.

The park recently shared some new camera-trap footage that also puts a couple of these feline cousins – the two biggest ones, to be exact – in the exact same place, if not quite the same time.

The clip released by the park at first blush seems to suggest a David-and-Goliath matchup: a hefty, full-ruffed Amur tiger scopes out the dark mouth of a cave on a snowy hillside, but decides against entering – and, subsequently, a significantly smaller Amur leopardess drowsily emerges from the grotto, which only claims the single entrance. 

A Goliath of a tiger yielding to a littler but braver relative? Well, as it turns out, nope: more careful examination of the footage revealed that a full five days separated the tiger's visit and the carefree leopardess lazing about. Land of the Leopard research engineer Viktor Storozhuk said in a blog post that the motion-sensor camera apparently malfunctioned and didn't capture the leopardess entering the cave at some point in between the two scenes.

Storozhuk suggested the tiger may have been investigating the cavern in hopes of finding a hibernating bear within: Amur tigers have been known to kill Asiatic black bears in their winter dens. (Denning black and brown bears are vulnerable to tigers, but such predation can still be a tall order. In one study from the early 1970s, a tiger turned around and backtracked upon encountering the winter lair of a large brown-bear boar.)

According to the Land of the Leopard post, the leopardess in the footage likely didn't have cubs with her, and was simply using the grotto as a temporary shelter. Caves and alcoves on southern slopes – the warmer and sunnier aspects – commonly serve as winter-time resting quarters for both leopards and tigers, according to senior park researcher Dina Matyukhina.

Even though the video clip doesn't document a real-time interspecific showdown – rare between tigers and leopards, given the latter go out of their way to avoid the former – it certainly highlights the beauty of these two big cats of the north, as well as their striking size discrepancy.

Cat comparisons aren't the only gems that camera traps in Land of the Leopard have been turning up lately. Video from October documented a resident male Amur leopard ("Typhoon") making a territorial call from a ridge-top – the first time such vocalisations have been captured on film in the wild:



Top header image: Pixabay