Snow Leopard - Uncia uncia
( Schreber, 1775 )



Snow Leopard Photo
Snow Leopard Location Map
Snow Leopard Photo Snow Leopard Location Map Asia

Subspecies: None
Est. World Population: < 10,000


Body Length: 36 - 48 in
Tail Length: 30 - 35 in
Shoulder Height: 20 - 25 in
Weight: 80 - 120 lbs

Top Speed:
Jumping Ability: (Horizontal)

Life Span: 15 - 18 yrs in the Wild
Life Span: 17 - 21 yrs in Captivity

Sexual Maturity: 24 - 30 mo (Females)
Sexual Maturity: 24 - 30 mo (Males)
Litter Size: 1 - 4
Gestation Period: 93 - 103 days

Base fur color ranges from light gray to smoke gray, shading to white on the belly. The head, neck, and lower limbs are covered with solid spots, while the rest of the body is covered with "rosettes," large rings that often enclose smaller spots. The fur is very thick, one inch long on the back, two inches long on the tail, and three inches long on the belly. Characteristically, the tails are extremely long in comparison to other cats, measuring almost as long as the body. They use the tail both for balance and covering their body, nose, and mouth during times of sub-zero temperatures. Also characteristic of snow leopards are the very large and furry paws, functioning both as snow shoes and padding against sharp rocks.

The snow leopard generally inhabits elevations between 6,500 - 13,000 feet although it can occasionally be found at lower altitudes to the north of its range and as high as 18,000 feet in Himalayan regions. The cat is generally associated with generally rocky terrain such as high valley ridges, rocky outcrops and mountain passes. As summer gives way to winter, the snow leopard will follow its migrating prey down below the tree line to the lowland forests that cover much of its habitat - however the cat is rarely associated with dense forestation.

Biomes: temperate forest & rainforest, mountains

Oriental: Snow leopards inhabit the mountain ranges of Central Asia stretching from northwestern China to Tibet and the Himalayas.

Life Cycle:
Due to the often-harsh weather conditions that prevail, cubs are always born in the spring, with mating taking place some three months earlier in late winter. This ensures that a food source is abundant and less effort is needed to secure a kill. The litter size is usually between 1 - 4 (typically two) cubs and they are born after a gestation period of approximately 98 days. The cubs weigh between 12 - 28 ounces at birth - have a daily average weight gain of approximately 2 ounces per day and stay with their mothers until they are over 18 months old.

Food & Hunting:
Their prey includes wild sheep, wild boar, hares, mice, deer, marmots, and other small mammals. They also feed on domestic livestock. Prey is either attacked or ambushed. Snow leopards attack usually from a distance up to fifteen meters and feed initially on the chest, lower abdomen, or thigh.

Socially, snow leopards are thought to be much like the tiger, essentially solitary but not totally asocial. They pair only during the mating season, when couples may inhabit a range together. Unlike many other cats, snow leopards do not roar. However, they let out a slight moan when trying to attract a mate, and individuals greet each other with quiet "chuffing" sounds. Snow leopards are primarily nocturnal but are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. Snow leopards are well known for their muscularity and agility with the ability to leap up to fifty feet horizontally and twenty feet vertically.

The main threat to snow leopards is hunting for their fur. In 1981, the International Snow Leopard Trust was created in Seattle as a non-profit corporation working on conservation of the snow leopard and its mountain habitat.

There are approximately 500 leopards in 150 zoos world-wide. Many zoos are involved in a snow leopard species survival project, a coordinated breeding program among zoos. The goal of this project is to maintain a genetically sound population in hope that these animals may someday be released into the wild. Other methods of conservation include habitat protection, captive breeding, stiff penalties for those harming them, and public education.

Brakefield, Tom. Big Cats: Kingdom of Might. Stillwater, MN: Voyageur Press, 1993
Nowak, Ronald. Walker's Mammals Of The World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999
Kitchener, Andrew. The Natural History of the Wild Cats. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1991

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Database Last Updated: 31 Dec 1969

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