||Resource exploitation and behavioural interference underlie competition among
carnivores. Competition is reduced by specializing on different prey and/or spatiotemporal
separation, usually leading to different food habits. We predicted that
two closely related species of large cats, the endangered snow leopard and the
near-threatened common leopard, living in sympatry, would coexist through
habitat separation and exploitation of different prey species. In central Himalaya,
we assessed (2006–2010) habitat and diet overlap between these carnivores. The
snow leopard used grassland and shrubland, whereas the common leopard
selected forest. Contrary to our prediction, snow leopard and common leopard
preyed upon similar wild (Himalayan tahr, musk deer) and domestic species (Bos
spp., dogs). Dietary overlap between snow leopard and common leopard was 69%
(yearly), 76% (colder months) and 60% (warmer months). Thus, habitat separation
should be the result of other factors, most likely avoidance of interspecific
aggression. Habitat separation may not always lead to the use of different prey.
Avoidance of interspecific aggression, rather than exploitation of different
resources, could allow the coexistence of potentially competing large predators.