At the Bronx Zoo.
|Range||Central Asia, Nepal and China mainly. Himalayas|
The Snow Leopard is a species from the Panthera genus. It is found in the snowy woodlands of Central Asia
Snow leopards have long thick fur, and their base colour varies from smoky gray to yellowish tan, with whitish underparts. They have dark gray to black open rosettes on their body with small spots of the same color on their heads and larger spots on their legs and tail. Unusually among cats, their eyes are pale green or gray in color.
The Snow Leopard leads a largely solitary life, although mothers may rear cubs in dens in the mountains for extended periods.
Snow leopards are carnivores and actively hunt their prey. Like many cats, they are also opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they can find, including carrion and domestic livestock. They can kill animals three to four times their size, such as the Bharal, Himalayan Tahr, Markhor and Argali, but will readily take much smaller prey such as hares and birds. They are capable of killing most animals in their range with the probable exception of the adult male Yak. Unusually among cats, snow leopards also eat a significant amount of vegetation, including grass and twigs.
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Snow leopards are unusual among large cats in that they have a well-defined birth peak. They usually mate in late winter, marked by a noticeable increase in marking and calling. Snow leopards have a gestation period of 90–100 days, so that the cubs are born between April and June. The mother gives birth in a rocky den or crevice lined with fur shed from her underside. Litter sizes vary from one to five cubs, but the average is 2.2. The cubs are blind and helpless at birth, although already with a thick coat of fur, and weigh from 320 to 567 grams (11 to 20.0 oz). The eyes open at around seven days, and the cubs can walk at five weeks and are fully weaned by 10 weeks. The cubs leave the den at around two to four months of age, but remain with their mother until they become independent after around 18–22 months. Once independent, they may disperse over considerable distances, even crossing wide expanses of flat terrain to seek out new hunting grounds. This likely helps reduce the inbreeding that would otherwise be common in their relatively isolated environment. Snow leopards become sexually mature at two to three years, and normally live for 15–18 years, although in captivity they can live for up to 21 years.
- The snow leopard cannot roar, despite possessing partial ossification of the hyoid bone.
- Snow leopards are also known as “Ghost Cats” in their native range do to being so elusive.