Thick fur also covers the cat's large paws, helping to grip slick surfaces and minimize heat loss. A snow leopard is a rare species of wildlife animal, which is on the verge of extinction. The average snow leopard weighs between 22 and 55 kg (49 to 121 lb). The snow leopard has short legs, a stocky body, and an extremely long, bushy tail, which it can curl over its face to stay warm. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Snow leopards become sexually mature between two and three years of age, and they mate in late winter. Because of the presence of certain skeletal features, such as having a shorter skull and having more-rounded eye orbits than other big cats, the snow leopard has also been classified by some authorities as the sole member of the genus Uncia. Snow leopards are the only species of big cat that inhabit the cold deserts of High Asia. The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) lives on the mountains of South and Central Asia. Laurascudder, GNU Free Documentation License. snow leopard (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia) An additional 600 snow leopards live in captivity. Ounce and the species name uncia derive from the old French word once, which means "lynx." Snow leopards live across a vast area of northern and central Asia, including the Himalayan Mountains. Snow leopards are weaned by 10 weeks of age and remain with their mother for up to 18-22 months. However, in 2017 the species’ status was changed to “vulnerable” after a population calculation error was discovered in the species’ 2008 population assessment. Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. It communicates using mews, growls, chuffing, hisses, and wails. Snow leopard cubs have black spots that turn into rosettes as the cats approach maturity. Snow leopard habitat is made up chiefly by temperate shrublands, tundra grasslands and steppe in arid or semi-arid regions. Snow leopards live at high elevations in mountainous regions of … After a 90-100 day gestation, she gives birth to one to five black-spotted cubs. They are found in 12 countriesincluding China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, and Mongolia. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Genetic studies show that the common ancestor of snow leopards and tigers diverged from the lineage of big cats about 3.9 million years ago and that snow leopards branched from tigers about 3.2 million years ago. Humans also hunt the snow leopard's prey, forcing the animal to encroach on human settlements to find food. The two most important prey species for snow leopards are the blue sheep and the large wild goat. The snow leopard inhabits the mountains of central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, ranging from an elevation of about 1,800 metres (about 6,000 feet) in the winter to about 5,500 metres (18,000 feet) in the summer. In the Himalayas, snow leopards live in high alpine areas, mostly above the tree line and up to 18,000 feet in elevation. The habitats of the snow leopard in the Indian Himalayas is approximately less than 35,000 square miles, particularly in the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Hi… These traits also distinguish the snow leopard from other big cats. Habitat Snow leopards can be found throughout high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and the southern Siberian mountains in Russia. Snow leopards live in alpine meadows as well as in treeless rocky mountains. Omissions? They live about 6500 to 20000 feet high on mountain slopes and snowy peaks. A rare appearance of snow leopard recently shifted focus back to the wild cat’s shifting habitat and its unknown census in Kashmir. Snow Leopard Habitat Snow leopards live in mountainous terrain which, for much of the time, is covered with snow. She’s on the lookout for a snack. They can be found at elevations between 3,000 to 5,000 metres across a total of 12 different countries. Its patterned coat helps it blend in with the steep rocky slopes above the tree line in the Asian mountains. It makes habitat at high altitudes reaching 14,000 feet above the sea level. The snow leopard’s habitat also provides important resources for the many people who live there – from food and medicine to wood for shelter, heat and fuel. During the summer, the snow leopard inhabits mountainous meadows above the tree line in rocky alpine regions at an altitude of 2,700 metres (8,900 feet) to 6,000 metres (20,000 feet). Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. While they aren't aggressive toward humans, snow leopards do not make good pets because they require considerable space and raw meat, and males spray to mark territory. Their thick fur patterned with dark rosettes and spots (a pattern that is unique to each individual snow leopard) is the perfect camouflage for their rocky habitat, allowing them to stalk their prey. The IUCN Red List now categorizes the snow leopard as a vulnerable species. A snow leopard habitat contains a number of different features, including high elevation, rocky outcrops, and cold weather. In the wild, most cats live between 15 and 18 years, but snow leopards live about 25 years in captivity. Snow leopards are foundat high altitudes in countries such as Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, among others. Essentially, snow leopards will eat any animal that's two to four times their own weight or less. Snow leopards live at high elevations in mountainous regions of Central Asia. The snow leopard habitat is a rugged one of isolated mountain ranges over 9,840 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level. The underparts, on which the fur may be 10 cm (4 inches) long, are uniformly whitish. Formerly classified as Leo uncia, the snow leopard has been placed—with the lion, tiger, and other big cats—in the genus Panthera. The snow leopard inhabits the mountains of central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, ranging from an elevation of about 1,800 metres (about 6,000 feet) in the winter to about 5,500 metres (18,000 feet) in the summer. The sole predator of … At that point, the young cats travel great distances to seek their new home. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. On average, a snow leopard's length is between 75 and 150 cm (30 to 59 in), plus a tail that's 80 to 105 cm (31 to 41 in) long. Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber, a German naturalist was probably the first person who described snow leopard back in 1977. Habitat loss is another significant threat to the snow leopard. As an apex predator, adult snow leopards are not hunted by other animals. The snow leopard (Panthera uncia), also known as the ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia.It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because the global population is estimated to number less than 10,000 mature individuals and is expected to decline about 10% by 2040. It stands about 0.6 metre (2 feet) high at the shoulder and weighs 23–41 kg (50–90 pounds). Carnivorous: the cat’s main prey are ibex, argali and blue sheep. They can be found in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Bhutan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Mongolia, Nepal, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. In Mongolia, the snow leopards are found in Kanghai Mountains and Gobi Altai mountains. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. Their fur keeps them well insulated in cold weather - … By looking at individual species of leopard, it is easier to determine what is found in a leopard habitat. The snow leopard was on the endangered species list from 1972 until 2017. These traits... Habitat and Distribution. Its soft coat, consisting of a dense insulating undercoat and a thick outercoat of hairs about 5 cm (2 inches) long, is pale grayish with dark rosettes and a dark streak along the spine. The snow leopard attains a length of about 2.1 metres (7 feet), including the 0.9-metre- (3-foot-) long tail. While other big cats have golden eyes, the snow leopard's eyes are gray or green. Between 1986 and 2017 the snow leopard was listed as an endangered species on the Red List of Threatened Species from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The primary habitat of Amur Leopard is in boreal forests which are temperate forests. Snow Leopards cannot roar but they make other sounds such as growling, chuffing, hissing and meowing. Keeping Warm On day six of creation week, God created the cat kind with a suite of designs that we see expressed uniquely today in different members of the cat kind in a variety of climates. Snow Leopards can jump up to 50 ft. Its short muzzle and small ears also help the animal conserve heat. Snow leopards play a key role as both a top predator and as an indicator of the health of their high-altitude habitat, ranging from an elevation of about 6,000 feet in the winter to about 18,000 feet in the summer. Between 2,500 to 10,000 adult snow leopards remain in the wild, but the species continues to face daunting threats to its survival. Several factors have contributed to their decline. Snow leopards do not hunt adult yaks or humans. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/animal/snow-leopard, National Geographic - Animals - Snow Leopard, San Diego Zoo Animals and Plants - Snow Leopard, International Union for Conservation of Nature. Snow leopards are some of the biggest cats in the world. The Ukok Plateau natural park provides critical habitat for the snow leopard and many other species, including the argali mountain sheep, dzeren antelope, black stork and steppe eagle. It hunts at night and preys on various animals, such as marmots, wild sheep, ibex (Capra), and domestic livestock. Their wild prey has decreased as herding and ranching activities have expanded throughout their geographic range. Scientists believe this trait naturally reduces the chance of inbreeding. Also unlike other big cats, the snow leopard cannot roar. The snow leopard's fur camouflages the cat against rocky terrain and protects it from cold temperatures. The other name for the snow leopard is the "ounce." The dense fur is white on the snow leopard's belly, gray on its head, and dotted with black rosettes. A snow leopard peers down from a craggy rock ledge high in the peaks of Mongolia, a country in Asia. Snow leopards are carnivores that actively hunt prey, including Himalayan blue sheep, tahr, argali, markor, deer, monkeys, birds, young camels and horses, marmots, pikas, and voles. Snow Leopard Facts (Panthera uncia) Description. The snow leopard has several physical characteristics that are adapted to its environment. Habitat. While snow leopards are protected over part of their range, hunting and poaching pose a major threat to their survival. Other snow leopard habitat regions in China includes Qinghai and Tibet as well as Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Yunnan. The snow leopard’s highly secretive behaviour and extremely remote habitats means they are rarely spotted in the wild. Cubs may be eaten by birds of prey, but only humans hunt the adult cats. Cold and dry: the snow leopard primarily lives in arid, barren mountain areas. 3. The snow leopard is a omnivore so it eats meat and plants. Picture by Tambako the Jaguar / Getty Images, African Lion Facts: Habitat, Diet, Behavior, Fascinating Arctic Fox Facts (Vulpes lagopus), 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T22732A50664030.en, Fading footprints; the killing and trade of snow leopards, Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College. The Amur Leopard fur has a pale color as compared to the other leopard species, which helps it to camouflage in the snow. Snow leopard, also called ounce, large long-haired Asian cat, classified as either Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia in the family Felidae. Snow Leopards a solitary animals meaning they like to live alone. Corrections? They can leap six times the length of their body. With their smoky-grey fur coats making them practically invisible, snow leopards have adapted to life at remote, frigid alpine landscapes with snowshoe-like paws and dense, woolly hair. A large male may reach 75 kg (165 lb), while a small female may weigh under 25 kg (55 lb). Male snow leopards are larger than females, but they have a similar appearance. A snow leopard on the prowl in China. 2. The snow leopard inhabits mountainous areas of Siberia, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia, Tibet, India, Nepal, or Uzbekistan. Snow leopards live in harsh, snowy, rugged alpine regions in central and south Asia. In 2016, an estimated 4,500–8,000 snow leopards are left in the wild—much larger than previously thought (4,000–6,500 in 2003). By helping to protect the snow leopard, we’re helping to conserve its environment for the benefit of people and nature. While the snow leopard is close in size to a lynx, it is more closely related to the jaguar, leopard, and tiger. Snow Leopard Habitat. China has almost 60% of the world’s snow leopard habitat in the areas like Xinjiang which is a huge, sparsely populated region of over 1.6 million square kilomteres (about one sixth of the China’s territory) and shares a border with the Tibet Autonomous Region. The ideal snow leopard habitat is bleak, dangerous, cold and desolate – not most people’s idea of a nice place to live. Their population is still considered to be declining, although they have been upgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (last assessed Nov. 2016).. 4. In the summer, the snow leopards live above the tree line from 2,700 to 6,000 m (8,900 to 19,700 ft), but in the winter they descend to forests between 1,200 and 2,000 m (3,900 to 6,600 ft). Updates? …the Himalayan bear), leopards, rare snow leopards, Siberian ibex (. Snow leopards live above the tree line at altitudes of 3000-6000 m. In the winter, snow leopards will live at lower altitudes, coming into forests and valleys. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. The female finds a rocky den, which she lines with fur from her belly. The leopard mostly eats wild sheep and goats. Even though snow leopards are classified into the genus Panthera, they resemble a great amount of similarity to tigers.… Snow leopards are highly adapted to their home in the cold high mountains. They are often killed by herders and ranchers whose livestock they have taken, and their bones and hides are sought after by hunters and poachers for the illegal animal trade. They also eat grass, twigs, and other vegetation. As more people move into the snow leopard’s domain, … The snow leopard is hunted for its fur and body parts and killed to protect livestock. Commercial and residential development reduces the available habitat. In winter, snow leopards descend to forests at lower altitudes. The change reflected an improved grasp of the reclusive cat's true population, rather than an increase in numbers. The snow leopard lives in a dozen countries in mostly mountainous areas of Central and South Asia. They are more commonly found in the Himalayan mountain range, but frequent other Asian mountain ranges as well. Leopards are arboreal big cats that belong to the species Panthera pardus. Even though their distribution is relatively wide, and they have recently been declared to a lesser degree of threat, the last 4,000 to 9,000 snow leopards are at risk from poaching and climate change. The snow leopard has several physical characteristics that are adapted to its environment. Snow leopard’s hind legs are so powerful that they … Snow leopards can be found in Central and South Asia, but the vast majority of snow leopards reside in China. Gentle: snow leopards are not known to be aggressive toward humans. The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a rare big cat adapted to life in a cold, harsh environment. They are widely distributed in the Himalayas in Bhutan, Nepal, and India as well as the Tibetan plateau. They’re well adapted to their cold environment. With its unique features, the snow leopard stays warm, travels safely, and sustains itself on what food can be found in its treacherous habitat. Countries include Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, and Tibet. Snow Leopards, scientifically known as Panthera uncia, are part of the wildcat family.They are known as the “Ghost of the Mountain” because they are rarely seen out in the open. The snow leopard is a powerful hunter, it is able to take down an animal 3 times its own weight. An assessment in 2016 estimated a population between 2,710 to 3,386 mature individuals remaining in the wild, with a decreasing population trend. While they are adapted to traverse rocky terrain and snow, snow leopards will follow trails made by people and animals if they are available. 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