The snow leopard (Panthera uncia), also known as the ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia.
Areal: Altai, Pamir, Tien Shan, Tibet, Himalayas, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal, China.
Description: Snow leopard wool is long (up to 12 cm long), fluffy, with a thick undercoat. The head is small. Pupils are round. The tail is long (up to 3/7 of the total length), covered with thick fluffy wool. The female uses it to heat her kittens. Males are larger and more massive than females.
Color: general body background is whitish-gray (sometimes with yellowish plaque), which perfectly masks the leopard from enemies and his victims. There are many small black spots on the head. On the torso, spots are black-gray or black in the form of rings. The abdomen and inner legs are white.
Size: body length 1.2-1.5 m, tail – 80-100 cm, height in the shoulders (in the crest) – 60 cm.
Weight: male – 45-55 kg, females – 35-40 kg.
Life duration: in nature up to 18-20 years, in captivity up to 28 years.
Voice: the snow leopard may purr, and when the animal is angry, it gently growls hisses and purrs.
Habitat: adapted to harsh climatic conditions – low snow alpine meadows and bare rocks at the borders of eternal snow, slopes of gorges, woodless highlands, stone placers (5000-6000 m above sea level).
Enemies: the main enemy is the man. In hungry ounces years can compete for food with flocks of wolves.
Diet: Snow leopard hunts mountain goats and rams, roe deer, wild boars, marmots, hares, white partridges, reindeers, elks, and domestic yaks.
Behavior: spends light hours in the shelter. Snow leopard rests in caves, clefts of rocks, on low trees. Hunting at dusk and night. The snow leopard can make jumps up to 6 m long. Sight and hearing are well developed. Snow leopard loves to play and lie in the snow. After such games, it rests and warms up in the sun.
On average every 10-15 days kills one big prey and eats it for about 4 days.
When he meets a man, he tries to leave or hide.
Dense and fluffy fur on his paws helps ounce to run fast on the snow and keep on the slopes of the mountains.
It can migrate the trail of wild goats up to 600 km.
Social structure: Snow leopard leads mainly to a solitary life.
The individual plot is about 160 km2.
Reproduction: the female does not breed every year. For childbirth, the female makes a warm lair in deep caves, in cliffs or other places where kittens will not be disturbed by enemies. The bottom is lined with undercoat and wool, which pulls out of itself. A male is also involved in raising calves. Parents do not always actively protect their offspring.
Breeding season/period: January to March.
Puberty: for 2-3 years.
Pregnancy: lasts about 100 days.
Progeny: snow leopard females in captivity usually give birth to two to three cubs in a litter, but can give birth to up to seven in some cases. The weight of newborns does not exceed 500 g. The size of the tail is up to 25 cm long. The fur is gray-brown with spots and stripes.
Eyes open for 5-6 days. 10-day old kittens start crawling. Cubs come out of the lair of leopard at the age of two months. Lactation lasts up to 4 months, but from two months the female begins to feed them and meat. At the end of lactation, the kittens go hunting with their mother. Cubs play a lot, especially they like to hunt for their mother’s tail.
Use/harmful to man: snow leopard skin is very valuable. Leopard fur coats used to cost up to $60,000 in the United States. Now the leopard is also hunted for its bones, which are used in Chinese medicine.
It’s tame, though it’s got a pretty vicious character.
Conservation: Throughout its range, the snow leopard is a rare, endangered species. Included in the IUCN International Red List as an endangered species. The population number is not more than 2000 individuals.
Reasons for the decrease in the population are impoverishment of forage base, poaching, human development of mountain pastures, developing tourism, the high market price for hiding, and inside of leopard.
There are several subspecies of an ounce, which differ from each other in color, size, and spot.
Climate change is perhaps the most serious problem in the long term, threatening the survival of snow leopard. It is responsible for melting glaciers and increasing the risk of droughts affecting the flora and fauna of the region, and condemning snow leopards like other wildlife to increasing difficulties in finding food.
In the Himalayas, according to the World Wildlife Fund, climate change impacts could lead to a loss of up to 30 percent of snow leopard habitat.
See also 7 interesting facts about leopards