Did you know snow leopards are built to navigate their way over steep and rocky terrain of Central Asia without missing a step? Probably not, we didn’t, so read on to learn some fun facts about snow leopards. These beautiful cats are renowned for their thick fur that can be white, yellowish or soft grey in color. In addition, they have large black ringed spots which camouflage them from their prey. You can easily distinguish a snow leopard from other leopards because of its long tail and the color of their coat.
In general, leopards are smaller in size than tigers, lions and jaguars. Leopards inhabit nearly all of Africa and Asia. You will be able to find leopards in the Middle East, Russia, Korea, India, Malaysia and China. They inhabit forests, grasslands, deserts and mountains.
Unlike snow leopards, which are active during dusk and dawn, leopards are nocturnal creatures. During the day, these solitary cats rest on tree branches or in shrubs to escape the scorching heat. During the night, they begin hunting for hoofed animals, such as wildebeest, gazelle, deer and impala. Leopards are not averse to also hunting birds, rodents and monkeys.
Leopards are usually light colored with dark spots known as rosettes. You can find black leopards where the coat and rosettes are nearly the same color, giving the leopard a solid black appearance. Usually, a black leopard is called black panther.
Those were a few quick facts about the leopards, now let us find out some interesting facts about snow leopards, who are just as magnificent!
Carnivore to the Hilt
Snow leopards that roam the mountainous terrain of the Himalaya and Tibet favor the blue sheep, but they also eat mountain ibex, game birds, hares and marmots. Did you know a snow leopard can easily kill prey that is three times their weight? Snow leopards stalk their prey and spring to make a kill from a distance of 20 to 50 feet.
Photo Credit: Mark Dumont (under CC license)
Snow Leopard’s Home
Snow leopards are found in the mountains of Central Asia. They inhabit altitudes between 9,800 and 17,000 feet. You will be able to find snow leopards all the way from India to China and then from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan. It is estimated that nearly 60% of the snow leopard habitat is located in China, but you will not find any in Mongolia, which was originally their home range.
Snow leopards live in areas that have steep cliffs, ravines and rocky outcrops. This allows them to hide themselves and then pounce on their unsuspecting prey.
Babies and I
Although snow leopards are solitary animals, they come together during mating season, which is from January until May. After mating, the female snow leopard has a gestation period of 98 to 103 days and gives birth to one to four cubs. Cubs are usually born in spring and are quite helpless at first. They open their eyes after 7 to 9 days and for the first 2 months survive only on their mother’s milk.
When snow leopard cubs are about three months old, they start accompanying their mother on hunting expeditions and this is how they learn the survival skills needed to live in such a harsh and cold place. Cubs leave their mothers by the time they are 19 to 24 months and it is only then that the mother is ready to mate again.
Photo Credit: Roger Blackwell (under CC license)
Today, there are just 6,000 snow leopards in the wild. Many snow leopards prey on domestic animals and this creates a conflict between man and the animal, leading to the killing of these beautiful cats. Also, illegal poaching for pets and body parts for traditional Chinese medicines has caused the number of snow leopards to fall dramatically.
Other reasons for the disappearance of snow leopards from the wild are habitat destruction and a decline in the animals that snow leopards prey on.
Interesting and Fun Facts about Snow Leopards
- Snow leopards are active during dawn and dusk and that is why it is very difficult to spot them in the wild
- Snow leopards cannot roar
- The wide feet of a snow leopard functions as natural snowshoes and the thick fur on the feet protect the sole of the feet from extreme cold
- In the wild, snow leopards live anywhere from 10 years to 12 years, but in captivity they can live up to 15 years
- An adult snow leopard can weigh anywhere from 60 to 120 lbs
More facts about Snow Leopards