What They Eat

A leopard shark’s diet changes somewhat with its size, but it tends to eat a lot of invertebrates, including shrimp, crabs, clam siphons and octopi.  Small bony fish, smaller sharks, rays and fish eggs are also consumed.

Where They Live

Leopard sharks are especially common off the California coast but can be found in the eastern Pacific as far north as Oregon and as far south as Baja, Mexico.   They frequent shallow muddy waters including estuaries and occasionally kelp forests.

What They Do

Leopard sharks are active swimmers that move with an undulating motion side-to side.  They often form large schools and swim together with gray smoothhounds, brown smoothhounds and spiny dogfish.   These sharks are admired for their attractive oval-shaped “leopard” markings.

How They’re Doing

Leopard sharks are listed in the category of least concern for extinction.  They inhabit a narrow range and are slow growing, which means they could experience problems if they are fished too heavily.  California manages the fishing of this species in order to prevent that from happening.

Where in the World

North America



Conservation Status

Least Concern

Animal Facts

Length: 4-6 feet
Life Span: 30 years in human care
Average Weight: 40lbs

Taxonomic Category

Fish Carnivore

Where at the Zoo

Discovery Bay

  • Leopard sharks will often swim closer to shore. They enter the bays as the tide rises, and retreat as it lowers.
  • The leopard shark is hunted by the great white shark.
  • Leopard sharks are known to selectively eat only the siphons (necks) of clams, and ignore the rest.
  • California fishermen catch the leopard shark for sport and human consumption.
  • As a leopard shark ages, the centers of its dark oval markings become lighter in color.

Leopard sharks are quite common off the coast of California, which probably has a lot to do the some of the fishing restrictions placed on them.  They are popular for sport fishing and are fished often for human consumption.  Their slow growth and narrow range would make them vulnerable sharks if they weren’t well managed.  It is unclear just how well the leopard shark is doing in the Gulf of Mexico, but the health of the global population is strong enough to be listed by the World Conservation Union as a species of least concern.