Scientific Name: Panthera uncia
There is no question that the Snow Leopard offers a gorgeous appearance. These felines have a great design to them with black speckles all over. The under side is white or cream and their coat can be gray, brown, or anything in between. They have thick fur due to the area where they live. They can be up to 120 pounds but many of them are only about 60 pounds. Females are smaller than males and the location where they live has a huge influence on overall size.
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The Snow Leopard is the only feline that lives in an extremely cold area. The design of their anatomy is what makes it possible for them to do so. They have very thick fur in the winter but it will thin out some for the warmer times. Still, it is very cold in that location so they need hair on their paws to regulate the heat. They also use their long tail to curl around their face. Then they don’t take in cold air.
The paws of the Snow Leopard are much larger than any other type of feline. They have traction control on them. This allows the felines to move around on the snow and to not slide on the ice. When they are in pursuit of their prey they need to know their movements won’t let it get away. They also need to be able to avoid injury in the process.
How does the Snow Leopard breathe at such a location with thin air? They have larger nasal passages and a dome shaped head. The combination of these efforts allow them to take in more air with each breath. They are very strong animals with powerful legs and shoulders. They can take down large prey due to the strength of their jaws and teeth.
When it comes to the evolution process of the Snow Leopard we have many unanswered questions. How did things occur that allows them to live in such an environment? The fact that so few animals and no other felines are found there is fascinating. Yet that also raises many questions.
Since their body design is so different from other felines it gives many experts reason to believe that evolution is a huge part of what has happened for them to thrive there. However, there isn’t’ enough evidence yet to say for sure what all occurred over time for this to happen. One theory though is that large numbers of them did die out and only a few survived.
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The Snow Leopard is often found being very quiet due to the fact that they live a mostly isolated lifestyle. However, they are able to communicate by hissing, meowing, growling, and wailing. They don’t roar like some of the felines do. What we have observed about verbal communication comes in the form of mating calls and when the females have young to care for. This feline is less territorial than others so they tend to come into contact with each other more frequently.
As long as they have enough food it doesn’t bother them to share territory. However, if they do end up struggling to find enough then they may have to become more aggressive when it comes to protecting their home range.
The Snow Leopard is rarely seen by humans in the wild due to them hiding and blending in so well to their environment. There has never been a documented attack of a human from a Snow Leopard. This does put more people at ease due to the stories you may hear about other felines. However, some worry that if humans continue to move into the habitat of these felines that could one day occur.
The Snow Leopard though has been recorded as one that runs away from humans and other animals. They will even leave behind food that they have killed and other animals will consume it. There is plenty of curiosity about why this feline is so mild tempered compared to others.
Habitat and Distribution
Many areas of South Asia are home to the Snow Leopard. This includes China, Russia, Pakistan, and India. They can live in many different altitudes of the mountain there. When the winter comes they often move to lower areas. While their bodies can handle the cold it is too hard for them to find enough food. During the summer though they often go back up to those higher elevations.
Diet and Feeding Habits
They consume many different sources of food in their natural environment. They are very good hunters. However, they may find it difficult to find food during certain times of the year. That is why they don’t pass up any opportunity that comes along for them to eat. They will consume small prey such as hares and rodents. They often seem to be plentiful.
They also consume larger animals including monkeys, deer, and antelope. There are times when they have to settle for domestic pets or even livestock due to not being able to find enough food. The fact that humans continue to settle into such areas more frequently is resulting in such instances increasing.
They will stockpile food as well in order to ensure they don’t run out. A food source can last them for several days if it is a large animal. Yet if they get the chance to kill something else that comes along they are going to do so. These efforts are in place so that they don’t end up starving when food is hard to find.
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The Snow Leopards have a very small period of time for mating. The female will call out and give off scent for the male to find her. Typically there is only time for each male to mate with one female. Mating may seem strange in the winter but it allows the cubs to be born when it is much warmer. They will arrive in either March or April of the following year.
The females start to prepare for the arrival of the young though right away. They find a den that can offer enough room for up to five cubs. She will lie around in that den and her hair will start to fall out. This is a natural process and then the coat will get thicker again before the next winter.
When the young arrive they are very vulnerable. They can’t see for about a week and they feed from milk her body produces. She has to leave them often so she can go eat. When the cubs are about five weeks old she will also be finding meat to bring back to them. Around 10 weeks old they can come out of the den and start helping to find their own food. When they are from 1 ½ to 2 years old they will go find their own location.
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There aren’t any real threats in the wild for the Snow Leopard. Sometimes the young are killed by aggressive males though. The big threat comes from humans. Like most other felines the desire to use their fur to make coats has depleted their populations. That isn’t’ as common anymore though which is good news. Even so, only about 7,000 of these animals remain in the wild.
The big problem with humans currently has to do with the habitat. It seems that more and more humans are moving into this area. The Snow Leopard is finding that their range for finding food is getting smaller due to these movements.