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September 02, 2014  |  Login

Snow Leopard
Panthera uncia

 
 
 
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What Are They Like?

Snow leopards are distinguished by long tails and dense, nearly-white fur spotted with black. They measure 3.25-4.25 feet (1-1.3m) in length and weigh 55-165 pounds. (25-75 kilograms). Their tails, which can be up to 3 feet (1 meter) long, help them balance; they also wrap their tails around them when resting to help them keep warm. Their dense fur keeps them warm, and the coloration allows them to blend into the snowy habitats where they live.  Their limbs are short and stocky for climbing in steep terrain.

Where Do They Live?

Snow leopards live in the high mountains of Central Asia. They like steep terrain broken by cliffs and ridges, and they avoid dense forests. Snow leopards are spread across a 1.1 million square mile (3 million square kilometer) range that covers 12 countries.

 
Did You Know?
Snow leopards can't roar.

How Are Babies Made?

Snow leopard cubs are born after a 90-105 day gestation period. There are usually four to five cubs in a litter, and those cubs may stay with their mother for a year or more after birth. Snow leopard siblings may associate for even longer than one year.

What Do They Eat?

They hunt animals including ibex, marmots, pikas and hares along with birds like the Tibetan snowcock and chukor partridge. Their diet consists mostly of smaller prey, but stealth enables them to successfully hunt prey that is up to twice their size. These cats hunt at dusk and rely on their excellent hearing and night vision. With wild species declining, they often turn to livestock, inciting farmers to kill them.

 
Did You Know?
Snow leopards can jump as far as 50 feet (15 meters) horizontally and 20 feet (9 meters) vertically.

What Do They Do?

Adult snow leopards are solitary animals. In fact, they are so solitary there is no word for a group of snow leopards. These cats cannot roar, though they can "meow" and make other noises.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which keeps a "Red List" of species in danger worldwide, lists the snow leopard as "endangered." Their population has declined at least 20% in the past two generations due mostly to habitat loss, loss of prey and poaching. Hunters seek them for their beautiful fur as well as for use in traditional medicine. The total snow leopard population is estimated at between 4,080-6,590.

What's Being Done?

Snow leopards are legally protected from hunting in all the countries in which they live. The Snow Leopard Network connects organizations for coordinated conservation including the "Snow Leopard Survival Strategy." The World Wildlife Fund also protects the snow leopard by focusing on sustainable development in rural areas, working with farmers to reduce the number of snow leopards that are killed and working to eliminate illegal trade.

 

Searching for the Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard Quest 1 – BBC Planet Earth

 
 

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