Snow Leopard Facts
- Because of its majestic beauty, the gorgeous Snow Leopard is the National Heritage Animal in two countries within its territorial range. As a result, it is afforded a measure of protection.
- It ranks among the most beautiful of the big cats and is also the least aggressive towards humans. These felines are reportedly easily driven away from livestock.
- The animal also readily abandons its kills if approached by humans.
- Unfortunately, this remarkable wild feline is also in danger of extinction. The IUCN listed the species as Threatened.
- Climate change and habitat loss represent the greatest threats to its continued existence as a species.
Snow Leopard Physical Description
The Snow Leopard is slightly smaller than other big cats.
The body is stocky in shape, averaging about 50 in (130 cm) in length. It achieves a usual weight of about 120 lb (55 kg). The legs are rather short, with the feline measuring an average of 24 in (60 cm) at the shoulder. The tail is long, averaging 39 in (100 cm) long.
Its evolutionary adaptations include the well-known stocky build, much thicker fur, smaller ears, and wider paws.
The Snow Leopard is also capable of leaping as much as 50 ft (15.2 m).
Its coloring varies between individuals. This range runs from a smoky gray to a tan color, with the ubiquitous spots. These patterns provide for excellent camouflage within its endemic habitat.
The eyes are very distinctive and are typically gray or pale green in color. Occasional individuals are born with a brilliant blue variant.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Felidae
- Genus: Panthera
- Species: P. uncia
Snow Leopard Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The species inhabits both the alpine and sub-alpine ranges. It lives at altitudes of between 9,800 – 14,800 ft (3,000 – 4,500 m) and prefers terrain that is rocky or snow-covered.
Its active periods are generally at twilight. The species is primarily carnivorous and is an excellent hunter. Individuals typically take smaller prey such as rabbits and birds but will occasionally take prey several times its own size. This stunning animal also feeds opportunistically, consuming carrion.
This species consumes a proportionately larger amount of vegetation than any other big cat.
The feline leads a primarily solitary life as it usually only groups together to mate or while a female is rearing her cubs.
In addition, a typical lifespan is approximately 15-18 years.
Snow Leopard Conservation Efforts
The Snow Leopard faces the danger of extinction. Exact tallies of its numbers in the wild are impossible to attain because of the remoteness of its habitat. Current estimates place its numbers at fewer than 8,700.
Numerous organizations are now working to preserve the species. In 2013, the governments of 12 of the countries the Snow Leopard inhabits signed the Bishkek Declaration.
Consequently, they created numerous protected areas within the range the felines inhabit. To date, a total of 23 of these protected areas exist. A few of these include Chitral National Park, in Afghanistan, and Tumor Feng Nature Reserve, in China.
Yet, more must be done: illegal poaching still occurs as well as a threat from habitat loss.