How Does a Black Panther Protect Itself?

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Black panthers that are melanistic leopards protect themselves from larger predators by hauling their kill up into a tree to feed on it. If they are unable to get it to a tree in time, they back away from and cede the kill. Black panthers that are melanistic jaguars are apex predators, have no natural enemies and can even overcome large prey with their powerful jaws.

In their natural habitats, leopards must compete with numerous predators that are larger, more powerful or more numerous than they are including lions, hyenas, bear, crocodiles and wild dogs. To protect their kill, they have the ability to carry prey heavier than they are vertically into a tree. Though lions have been known to climb trees to retrieve carcasses left by leopards, the arboreal agility of the leopards generally protects them. The only other predator whose territory may overlap that of a jaguar is the cougar, but as the cougar is a smaller animal, it poses no threat to the jaguar.

So-called black panthers are not a separate species of big cat. They are leopards or jaguars whose normal colorations have been changed by an excess of the black pigment melanin. The standard marking are still present but are overwhelmed by the black pigmentation. Melanism is more common in leopards than in jaguars, and most of the black panthers seen in zoos are examples of melanistic leopards.