snow leopardScientific Name– Panthera uncia

Conservation Status– Endangered

Appearance

The snow leopard is one of the smaller big cats. They measure 4-5ft (1.2-1.5m) in length with the tail comprising 91cm (36in) of this. At the shoulder these animals stand 60 cm or 24inches tall. The average snow leopard weighs between 30 and 55kg (60-121 pounds). The female snow leopard is slightly smaller than the male.

The snow leopard has a thick coat of fur which coloured is a smoky grey. This is patterned with black circles known as rosettes. On the underside of this animal is a yellowy tan, smoky grey or white colouration. The snow leopard has grey or green eyes. Snow leopards have thick tail covered with fur which they use as a blanket when they are sleeping. To balance while climbing down steep rock faces the tail is essential. Their feet are wide and covered in fur allowing them to act like a natural snowshoe.

Lifespan                                                                                  

The snow leopard will live for 10 to 13 years in the wild. In zoos they have been known to make it into their 22nd year.

Diet

The snow leopard is a carnivore. The snow leopard is capable of taking down prey which is three times its size. They eat animals such as the bharal, ibex and the argali sheep. These animals will also take smaller prey including marmots, pikas and hares, as well as birds including snow cock, chukor and other game birds.

They will readily take livestock from farms. As such farmers have begun to prosecute these animals by shooting them because of this.

Habitat

snow leopardThe snow leopard hails from Asia. They range throughout Afghanistan, China, India, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Russia, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Nepal. 60% of their habitat is in China.

Snow leopards can be found throughout the mountainous regions of Asia including the Himalayas. They prefer steep rocky areas where the terrain is broken up. They mostly travel through their home range using tracks made by other animals.

Reproduction

Male and female snow leopards will only come together during January to March for breeding. They attract each other using a range of vocalisations. They will also scent mark within their home range around this time as well. The pair spend a few days together mating.

After 90-110 days 1-4 cubs will be born. The mother creates a nest in amongst some rocks. The baby’s eyes will not open until it is 1 week old. At birth their fur is darker than that of an adult. They also have fully black spots which become rosettes as they grow.

They first walk at 5 weeks of age. By 2 months old the cubs are beginning to feed on solid foods. By 10 weeks of age the cubs will be fully weaned off the mother’s milk. These cubs stop living in the den between their third and fourth month. They live with the mother in her territory for up to 2 years though.

Once they leave their mother the snow leopard will journey a considerable distance away to establish his own territory. This is seen as being an adaption which stops in breeding which would present if all the young mice stayed together.

At 2 to 3 years of age a female snow leopard will have its first cubs. Males develop slightly later having their first cubs when they are 4.

snow leopard

Behaviour

The snow leopard has the ability to hiss, growl and moan like all of the big cats but cannot roar. This is due to their throat developing like that of a small cat. As such they chuff and purr instead.

The snow leopard shows a crespecular activity pattern. This means they are most active at dawn or dusk. If this species is living near humans they will move to being a nocturnal animal.

Quick facts

The snow leopard is regularly used as a symbol and in heraldry throughout its range

In Pakistan the snow leopard is their National Heritage Animal

In the Western Himalayas state of Himachal Pradesh the snow leopard is the state animal

Photo Credits

Top-       “Uncia uncia” by Bernard Landgraf – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Uncia_uncia.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Uncia_uncia.jpg

Map-     “Snow leopard range”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Snow_leopard_range.png#mediaviewer/File:Snow_leopard_range.png

Bottom-“Lightmatter snowleopard”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lightmatter_snowleopard.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Lightmatter_snowleopard.jpg