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Snow Leopard Trust

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You can tell a lot about how snow leopards live just by looking at them. From their noses to their thick, furry tails, snow leopards are well adapted for their cold, rugged mountain environment.


You can tell a lot about how snow leopards live just by looking at them. From their noses to their thick, furry tails, snow leopards are well adapted for their cold, rugged mountain environment. Click on the images below for larger versions!

  Snow leopard fur is dense and woolly to help the cats stay warm in their bitterly cold habitat. The fur on their bellies is up to 12 cm (nearly 5 in) long.

Snow leopards have white, yellowish, or smoky-gray fur patterned with dark-gray to black spots and rosettes. These markings camouflage them against the rocky slopes, helping them sneak up on prey.  

  Conservation Director Tom McCarthy tells a story of how a snow leopard once hid from him: "I was tracking a radio-collared cat in Mongolia. The signal I was picking up told me the cat was on a slope just across the ravine from where I was standing, a few hundred yards away. But I never did see that cat!" Can you find the snow leopard in the image at left? Mouse over the picture for some help!

Like snowshoes, the snow leopard's large paws help it walk on snow.  

  An adult snow leopard weighs between 35 and 55 kg (77-121 lb), stands about 60 cm (24 in) tall at the shoulder, and measures 1.8-2.3 m (6 to 7.5 feet) from their head to the tip of their tail. In other words, snow leopards are about seven or eight times the weight of a housecat and one-seventh or one-eighth the weight of a tiger, the largest species of cat. Male snow leopards are generally about 30% larger than females, but otherwise the two sexes look pretty much alike and can be difficult to tell apart.

The snow leopard's short forelimbs and long hind limbs give the cat agility in its steep and rugged environment. The mountain sheep and goats that are the cat's primary prey are extremely agile and the snow leopard must match them in order to survive. Jumping confidently onto narrow ledges and barreling down steep slopes is all in a day's hunt for snow leopards. The cats' long, powerful hind limbs help the snow leopard leap up to 30 feet--6 times its body length! Their well-developed chest muscles help it climb steep slopes.  

  The snow leopard uses its thick, furry tail--up to 1 meter (40 inches) in length, nearly as long as the rest of its body--to aid in balancing, much the same way that humans stretch their arms out for balance when they walk across a stream on a log, for example.

Snow leopards sometimes wrap their tail around their body and face, like a cozy muffler, for warmth when resting. Snow leopards have powerful lungs and large chest capacity to help them get enough oxygen from the thin mountain air, while their enlarged nasal cavity helps them warm the cold air they breathe before it gets to the delicate tissues inside the lungs.  

Do you have other questions about snow leopards? Send us an email with your questions and we'll do our best to answer them!



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