From my perch deep in the rocky terrain of the Yanshan Mountains, 90 km northwest of Beijing, I watch as preparations are made for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Through a gap in the tree line, I can see the construction of the official Olympic alpine ski course across the valley. With just a few kilometers between my secluded field site and the slopes, I could return as a distant Olympic spectator. Yet, I would not be alone.
I found this scenic spot while working to document wildlife in greater Beijing. My group is especially interested in the leopard cat—an elusive felid slightly larger than a house cat. When leopards went extinct in the Beijing area in the 1990s, the leopard cat became the top predator. To examine the state of the local population, we set up cameras along 15 km of this mountainous trail.
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One crystal clear winter morning, we captured an image of a leopard cat walking across fresh snow. In the background, the Olympic ski slope looms. The species persists, even in this human-dominated