The snow leopard belongs to the cat family. He is the smallest and lightest big cat. The snow leopard is not a special leopard, even if the name would suggest it. He is a separate species. It also lives higher in the mountains than the leopard.
Its fur is a gray or light tan with black spots. This makes it barely recognizable in the snow and on the rocks. Its fur is very dense and provides excellent protection against the cold. Hair is even growing on the soles of his feet. The paws are particularly large. He sinks less on the snow as if he were wearing snowshoes.
Snow leopards live in and around the Himalayan mountains. There is a lot of snow and rocks, but also scrubland and coniferous forests. Some of them live very high up, up to 6,000 meters above sea level. A person has to train quite a bit to be able to endure it because of the thin air up there.
How do snow leopards live?
Snow leopards are very good at climbing over rocks. They also manage very long jumps, for example when they have to overcome a crevice in the rocks. But there is one thing they can’t do: roar. Her neck is not able to do that. This also clearly distinguishes them from the leopards.
Snow leopards are loners. A snow leopard claims a huge territory for itself, depending on how many prey animals there are. For example, only three snow leopards could fit in an area the size of the state of Luxembourg. They mark their territory with droppings, scratch marks, and a special scent.
It used to be thought that snow leopards tended to be out and about at night. Today we know that they are often out hunting during the day, and also in the time in between, i.e. at dusk. They look for a rock cave to sleep or rest. If they often rest in the same place, a soft, warm layer of their hair forms there like a mattress.
Snow leopards hunt wild goats and sheep, ibex, marmots, and rabbits. But wild boars, deer and gazelles, birds, and various other animals are also among their prey. In the vicinity of the people, however, they also capture domestic sheep and goats, yaks, donkeys, horses, and cattle. In between, however, they also like parts of plants, especially twigs from some bushes.
Males and females only meet to mate between January and March. This is unique for the big cats because the others do not prefer a particular season. In order to find each other, they set more scent marks and call each other.
The female is only ready to mate for about a week. She carries her young animals in her belly for about three months. She usually gives birth to two or three young. Each one weighs about 450 grams, about the same weight as four to five bars of chocolate. In the beginning, they drink milk from their mother.
Are snow leopards endangered?
The most important natural enemies of snow leopards are wolves, and in certain areas also leopards. They fight each other for food. Snow leopards sometimes contract rabies or are infested with parasites. These are tiny little animals that can nest in the fur or in the digestive tract.
However, the worst enemy is the man. Poachers want to capture the skins and sell them. You can also earn a lot of money with the bones. They are considered to be particularly good medicine in China. Farmers also sometimes shoot snow leopards to protect their pets.
Therefore, the number of snow leopards fell sharply. Then they were protected and they multiplied a little again. Today there are around 5,000 to 6,000 snow leopards again. That’s still less than about 100 years ago. Snow leopards are not endangered, but they are listed as “Vulnerable”. So you are still in danger.