Fact Sheet
Snow Leopard

Basic Facts About Snow Leopards

The snow leopard, known for its beautiful, thick fur, has a white, yellowish or soft gray coat with ringed spots of black on brown. The markings help camouflage it from prey. With their thick coats, heavy fur-lined tails and paws covered with fur, snow leopards are perfectly adapted to the cold and dry habitats in which they live.

Diet

Snow leopards primarily hunt wild sheep and goats. Snow leopards are also known to eat smaller animals like rodents, hares and game birds.

Population

Did You Know?

Snow leopards have very large paws that act as snowshoes and keep them from sinking into the snow. Their paws are also completely fur-covered, protecting them from the cold.

Very rare in most of their range, an estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards are left in the wild, with 600 - 700 in zoos around the world. Exact numbers in the wild have not been determined due to the snow leopard’s shy nature.

Range

Snow leopards are found at altitudes between 9,800 and 17,000 feet in the high, rugged mountains of Central Asia. Their range spans from Afghanistan to Kazakstan and Russia in the north to India and China in the east. China contains about 60% of snow leopard habitat. They have already disappeared from certain parts of Mongolia, which is part of their historic range. 

Behavior

Snow leopards prefer to inhabit steep cliff areas, rocky outcrops and ravines. Such habitats provide them with the camouflage they need to ambush unsuspecting prey. They stalk their prey and usually spring from a distance of 20 - 50 feet. Their long and powerful hind limbs help snow leopards leap up to 30 feet, which is six times their body length.

Did You Know?

Snow leopards have light green or gray eyes, unusual for big cats, who usually have yellow or gold eyes.

Mostly active at dawn and dusk, snow leopards are rarely seen in the wild. Unlike other big cats, snow leopards are unable to roar. Solitary in nature, they pair only during the breeding season.

Reproduction

Mating Season: Between January and mid-March.
Gestation: period 3-3 ½ months.
Litter size: 2-3 cubs.

Females give birth in rocky dens lined with their fur. The young follow their mother on hunts at three months and remain with her through their first winter.

More on Snow Leopard: Threats to Snow Leopards »

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In the Magazine
Swift and silent as the falling snow, these adeptly named big cats stalk wild sheep, goats and other mountain mammals across some of Central Asia’s rockiest terrain.