Adult leopard with cub

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Leopard mothers show flexible child care

Leopard mothers face a dilemma familiar to human moms: Just when is the best time to let their kids leave home? The answer varies, according to 40 years of data on leopard families collected from a game reserve in South Africa. Some mothers chased off their cubs as early as 9 months after birth, researchers report this month in the Journal of Animal Ecology, whereas other cubs were allowed to hang around as long as long as 35 months. The cubs did fine either way, the team found, though mothers who spent more time with their cubs tended to have fewer litters in the long run. Either way, sons seem to get a bit more attention than daughters, the team found: The mothers allow males to stick around for 2 months longer, on average.