The snow leopard is on the endangered species list. The most serious threat to the snow leopard is loss of habitat. Snow leopards are also hunted for their fur. Hunting snow leopards is illegal, except in Mongolia. Researchers estimate that there are between 3,500 and 7,000 left in the wild. More than 600 snow leopards live in zoos. They are successfully bred in captivity. Snow leopards can live in captivity for 15 years.
Snow leopards are medium sized cats, weighing between 60 and 120 pounds. Body length ranges from 39-51 inches, and their tails can be almost as long as their bodies. They have thick, smokey-gray fur patterned with dark gray open rosettes. In the mountains they blend perfectly with the rocky slopes, making them practically invisible. The snow leopard also has long hind-limbs for leaping and long flexible tail for balancing.
Female snow leopards sexually mature at the age of 2 or 3. Males mature by age 4. The gestation period lasts from 90 to 103 days. Births occur in the wild and in zoos from April through June. Females can give birth to one to five cubs but usually two or three. Most often the mother gives birth in a rocky den lined with her soft fur. Life span in the wild is unknown for the snow leopard, but is 17 to19 years in zoos.
Snow leopards live in alpine and sub-alpine areas. In summer months they range in high alpine meadows and rocky areas at elevations of 8,900 to 19,700 feet (2,715-6,009 m). During winter they follow prey to lower elevations. They usually sleep in rocky caves or crevices. Snow leopards have a territorial range of approximately 600 miles, which makes tracking and compiling data a real challenge. Snow leopards live in the high, rugged mountains of Central Asia. Their range extends through twelve countries; Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Snow leopards are crepuscular, which means they hunt when the sun rises and then when the sun sets. Their method of capture is to stalk their prey for twenty to fifty feet, and then ambush their victim. They generally feed on wild sheep, goats, wild boars, deer, and other small mammals and birds. They can prey on an animal two or three times its size. Some of the adaptations the snow leopards have are that they have a nice, thick coat to help it adapt to the grasslands, its surroundings. The surfaces of the snow leopard’s paws are entirely covered by a cushion of hair. It has a long, swift tail that stretches around its whole body. The snow leopard contains a tint of white, unlike other leopards, and has many dark-colored spots which help it camouflage in its ecosystem.
The snow leopard helps keep other species from over populating. They do not hurt our environment and actually help by keeping other species from over populating. We can help snow leopard’s form becoming extinct by raising money for the “Coins for Cats” program. Also by keeping them in captivity and breeding them. The snow leopards are hunted by humans for their fur and supply fur bone to the illicit Asian medicine trade. We should save the snow leopards because we still have time to put them in captivity and breed them correctly before they go extinct.