The Snow Leopard Is Vulnerable

The Snow Leopard is not an endangered species but is on the decline and listed as vulnerable. About 2.7 to 3.7 million years ago the Snow Leopard was born out of genetic divergence of the Tiger (Panthera species). The species most likely originated in north-central Asia. In Tibet, the oldest known Panthera species found had skull characteristics very similar to a Snow Leopard.


  • Its beautiful coat with whitish to grey fur, black spots on its head and neck with larger spots on its back, flanks, and tail Its fur is very thick.
  • Smaller than other cats of this genus (Panthera), it is stocky with short legs. The height of its shoulder height of about 22 inches high. It is 31 to 41 inches long. Weight is from about 49 lbs. to about 121 lbs. but some males may be up to 165 lbs.
  • The Snow Leopard does have fangs (canine teeth) but they are only about 1.13 inches long and not as thick as those of others in the Panthera species.
  • It has large nasal openings. This allows for increasing the amount of air it inhales making it better for breathing at high altitudes. It also helps to humidify the cold air and helps with warming.
  • The Snow Leopard has other features that help it adapt to the cold and mountainous environment.
    • It has very broad paws with fur underneath that helps it walk on the snow and mountainous terrain. They are basically snowshoes.
    • Its small rounded ears and the underside fur help to keep the Snow Leopard warm.
    • The tail is long (about 31 to 41 inches) and is covered with thick fur. When the cat is asleep he uses its tail to cover its face and head to keep him warm.


Rugged Terran
  • The Snow Leopard lives at an altitude of about 9,800 to 14,800 feet. They live from eastern Afghanistan, the Himilayas, and Tibetan Plateau to southern Siberia, Mongolia, and western China. Yet, the Snow Leopard is an endangered species. They live at lower altitudes in the northern part of their range.
    • In the warmer summer weather, the Snow Leopard usually can be found living at an altitude of 8,900 to 19,700 feet.
    • In the winter it descends to altitudes of 3,900 to 6,600 feet.
    • Although they like rugged, rocky terrain, they can navigate through snow 33 inches deep, but they prefer to use the paths used by other animals.
    • The home range is from 4.6 to 15.1 square miles. The males travel about 0.31 and 3.39 miles per day (measured in a straight line) while the females travel only about 0.12 to 1.40 miles (measured in a straight line). Given the nature of the terrain, their movement is likely considerably more.
    • Where prey is plentiful about 10 leopards will inhabit an area of about 40 square miles. Where prey is sparse only 5 leopards can be supported in that habitat.
    • Snow Leopards mark their territories and usual travel routes with their scent, usually scraping the ground and depositing urine or feces, or spraying urine onto rocks.

What Snow Leopards Eat

Snow Leopard - Nature In Crisis
Snow Leopard - Nature in Crisis
  • A hunter, the Snow Leopard is a carnivore (meat-eater). It will prey on small animals and domestic livestock. In the Himalayas, it hunts Himalayan Blue Sheep, musk deer, wild boar, as well as animals like rats, mice, hamsters, squirrels, wild goats, and others. It depends on what season it is and what is available. Is scarcity of food why the Snow Leopard is listed as vulnerable?
  • The leopards usually hunt like most cats by using their initial leap to gain momentum generally down mountainsides. When it catches its prey it will drag it to a safe area and eat all edible parts of the carcass. The Snow Leopard can survive on just one Himalayan Blue Sheep and not have to hunt again for two weeks.
  • A large amount of vegetation is also in its diet including grass and twigs.

Longevity and Breeding

Sno Leopard Cubs - Nature in Crisis
The image is of three two-month-old snow leopard (Panthera uncia) cubs at the Cat Survival Trust, Welwyn,

By Dingopup – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Snow Leopard cub romping

Video of juvenile snow leopards (Uncia uncia) at Salzburg Zoo, Austria – Jul 23, 2016
By: Mathias Kabel- Own work.
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported2.5 Generic2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic license

  • Snow Leopards in captivity can live up to 25 years, but those that live in the wild only live 15 – 18 years.
  • Generally, sexual maturation happens at about two to three years of age. Mating time (Oestrus) lasts from five to eight days during which time the male will mate with only one female from 12 – 36 times a day. This usually happens late in the winter season.
  • The gestation period is 90 – 100 days so the cubs are born sometime between April and June.
  • The female finds a rocky den lined with fur she has shed to have her cubs. Most litters usually consist of two to three cubs but sometimes there can be as many as seven.
  • Cubs have thick fur but are born blind. They only weigh 11.3 to 20 ounces.
  • Within a week (7 days) their eyes open. At five weeks they can walk and they are weaned at ten weeks but stay with their mother from about 21 months to 25 months.

Snow Leopards are Endangered and Bound for Extinction

  • Poaching – the largest threat to Snow Leopards is humans.
    • A survey of Chinese websites revealed 15 advertisements for 44 Snow Leopard products, offering, teeth, skins, claws, and other parts.
      • Every year in China alone 103 to 236 animals are poached. This is a major reason the Snow Leopard is listed as vulnerable.
    • Illegal trade of body parts.
      • Bones are used in traditional Chinese and Mongolian medicine for treating rheumatism, injuries, and pain associated with human bones and tendons.
    • Illegal trade of skins
      • In Tibet and Mongolia skins are used for traditional dresses, meat, and Tibetan medicine (to cure kidney problems).
Snow Leopard Skin - Nature in Crisis
Snow Leopard Skin
Image by: Mickey Bohnacker, Presse-Fotograf, Frankfurt/Main, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine
AsianScientist (Feb. 18, 2016)
Snow Leopard Teet - Nature in Crisis
Snow Leopard Teeth
Image by: Eric Kilby from Somerville, MA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Snow Leopard Skeleton - Nature in Crisis
Snow Leopard Skeleton
Irbis1983, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Threats To The Snow Leopard Cont’d

Climate Change

A warmer climate would cause a change in the treeline in the Himalayas as well as a shrinking of the alpine zone due to greenhouse gas emissions and may reduce the Snow Leopard habitat by 30%.

Map of Climate Change - Nature in Crisis

The Incredible Tenacity of a Snow Leopard Hunting – Unbelievable!

  • Preying on domestic livestock
    • The image below is not of a domestic livestock situation, but you can see the incredible tenacity of the Snow Leopard.
    • Where there is a loss of natural prey due to livestock overgrazing the Snow Leopards prey on the domestic livestock. This leads to a conflict with humans as farmers defend their livestock. Another reason the Snow Leopard is vulnerable.

Hunting In The Wild – This next video has won an award for Best Film 2020 – Nature’s Best Photography Asia

Location: Kibber Wildlife Sanctuary, Lahaul and Spiti district, Himachal Pradesh. Local Porter: DK. Writer, Director & Producer: Kenneth Lawrence. Narrator: Nazneen Madan. Music Director: Advait Nemlekar. Colorist: Amit Kumar, Aum Creations. Cinematographer, Editor & Sound Design: Kenneth Lawrence.


Their work focuses on “managing human-leopard conflict and rural development, education for sustainable development, stopping mining, and reducing impacts of linear infrastructure development in fragile snow leopard habitat, and the control of the illegal wildlife trade.”

  • There are many conservation efforts taking place from wildlife foundations to Tibetan Monks who are dedicated to saving the Snow Leopard that is endangered and bound for extinction (or are they)?
    • Their efforts are especially focused on upgrading the living conditions of the people of the areas to raise their standard of living. Most of the population live below the poverty level and selling Snow Leopard skins brings much-needed income.
    • The conservationIsts are teaching the people how to make other types of income and to cohabitate with the Snow Leopards.
    • Hunting and selling of Snow Leopards parts are banned in the habitat countries.
  • There are many organizations helping with the survival and proliferation of Snow Leopards. Below are just a few:


“To protect the endangered cats, we need to work at a larger landscape level and find ways for snow leopards to coexist with the people sharing their habitat.” This is the focus of their conservation approach. Save the Snow Leopards that are endangered.

  • Many of the families living in snow leopard habitats are herders who live on less than $2 per day and depend on their livestock for food and income.
    • The snow leopard occasionally attacks and kills livestock, and members of these low-income communities sometimes resort to retaliation killings or poaching of snow leopards to protect their herds of livestock or earn extra money. One reason Snow Leopards are endangered and bound for extinction is because of their conflict with humans.
  • Their community-based conservation programs aim to break this cycle of poverty and create incentives for herders to protect local wildlife and ecosystems. Snow Leopards can be saved!


Their goal is to increase comprehension of ecosystems, empower the next generation of Snow Leopard champions, and provide guidance to communities living with Snow Leopards.

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