Snow Leopard

Panthera uncia

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. mammal mammal

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Source: Museum Victoria

Snow Leopard
Image: Samuel R Maglione
Source: photolibrary

Type: mammal

Snow Leopard Snow Leopard
Image: Samuel R Maglione
Source: photolibrary

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

Declining natural prey has forced Snow Leopards to catch domestic animals, bringing them into conflict with people. Conservation efforts are also hampered by people hunting these cats. Although trade in Snow Leopard skins is illegal, the beautiful, thick fur is still highly prized.

WHAT THEY EAT

carnivore

Snow Leopards are carnivores.

They eat wild sheep and goats, and smaller animals such as rodents and birds.

HOW BIG THEY ARE

Snow Leopard relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a cat and a woman.

Weight:
35–55 kg
Length:
body to 130 cm,
tail 80–100 cm
Height:
60 cm at shoulder

Amazing Snow Leopards

These large cats are perfectly adapted to life in cold, mountainous regions. They have large nasal cavities to aid breathing in the thin air of high altitudes, and their short, stocky legs give them great agility. Their patterned white-grey fur is excellent camouflage against rocky, snow-covered terrain and their thick coats protect against extremely cold weather. The fur on their bellies can be up to 12 cm long.

Snow Leopards are solitary, opportunistic hunters that prey on wild sheep and goats, and smaller animals such as rodents and birds. In some Tibetan villages they cause over 9% of the domestic animal losses each year. This puts them in danger of being killed by people trying to protect their stock. They hunt by stalking their prey then attacking in a final, brief rush.

The range of Snow Leopards varies between 20 and 1000 square kilometres, depending on the quality of the habitat. Mating occurs in winter, and young are born in spring or early summer. Young cubs remain with their mother for 18 to 22 months.

Snow Leopards are rare and secretive thus little was known about their biology until modern tracking techniques became available. Only about 4000–6000 individuals remain in the wild, and their numbers have dropped dramatically in recent decades.

Did You Know?

Snow Leopards

  • use their long tails to balance and keep warm
  • are related to tigers but cannot roar
  • can catch prey much bigger than themselves

WHERE THEY LIVE

Snow Leopard distribution map

Snow Leopards are found in mountainous regions in central Asia, including Afghanistan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nepal and Pakistan. They live in alpine steppe, grassland, scrub and open forest.

OTHER ANIMALS

Other animals from the Palaearctic

Common EiderLady Amherst's PheasantWild YakGiant Panda

Related Resources

Photograph of a yellow plastic Tyranasaurus Rex