The snow leopard is part of the cat family. It lives in the Himalayan alpine regions of central Asia. The snow leopard looks like a tiger. It has a gray coat with dark gray ringed spots. The snow leopard's coat is the thickest of any cat. It makes it look larger than it really is. The true length of an average snow leopard is 3-4 feet. Its shoulders are 24 inches off the ground. The thick tail of the snow leopard is 2.5 to 3 feet. When it is resting, it wraps its tail around itself like a blanket. Because of the size of the tail, it helps the snow leopard balance when they are walking in the rugged terrain of the Himalayan mountains. The snow leopard is a strong animal, and can take down its prey with one swift pounce. The back legs are so powerful they allow it to pounce up to 20 feet.
The male snow leopard marks its territory of 4 to 40 square miles with several females inside .The snow leopard is a solitary animal. It mates from January to April. They have 2-3 young in a litter. During birth, the male brings food to the female. After birth, the male leaves the female. The babies are born blind and deaf and they cannot walk. At about three months, they follow their mother on a hunting trip. About two years later they leave their mother. They stay together for a short time and then they go their separate ways. They have babies every two years. The average snow leopard lives up to 20 years.
The snow leopard's coat allows it to blend in with the rocks. The thick fur on the soles of its feet insulate the paws against the snow in the winter. The enlarged nasal cavities help it to breathe in high altitudes.
The snow leopard eats wild sheep, wild boars, gazelles, hares, markhor, bobak, tahr, marmots, mice and deer. The snow leopard is a carnivore, which means that it eats meat. The snow leopard can eat an animal three times the size of itself. The male eats the prey it kills; if he sees his family, he will back off and leave as they eat. The snow leopard will drag the carcass of a large animal to its marked territory and eat it over several days.
The snow leopard is a predator. The snow leopard limits the population of animals so they are not over populated.
The snow leopard is endangered. There are only 4,000 to 7,000 left in the world. Hunting and the decline of its prey threaten the snow leopard's existence. There are 47 parks all over the world, which serve to protect them.
by Anthony C. 2001
Photograph by Bruce Bunting
Kumar, P. "The Elusive Snow Leopard." http://cranes.org/SnowLeopard.htm [November, 1,2000]
"Saving the Snow Leopard". Wildlife Explorer. USA: International Masters Publishers. 1998.
"Snow Leopard". Wildlife Explorer. USA: International Masters Publishers. 1998.