9 amazing snow leopard facts

Discover fascinating facts about the ‘ghost of the mountains’. 

Portrait of a snow leopard in snow storm
1

Hostile habitat

Snow leopards live in harsh, snowy, rugged alpine regions in central and south Asia. They can be found at elevations between 3,000 to 4,500 metres.

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2

Solitary cats

Adults are solitary and only interact with other leopards during the breeding season.

3

Protective ‘snowshoes’

These big cats have enormous furry paws, which act as snowshoes by spreading their body weight more evenly across the snow. They also help muffle the sound of their movement and protect their toes from the biting cold.

4

Balancing act

Their long, thick tails are used as a balancing aid when chasing prey.

Snow leopard (Uncia uncia) walking down snow covered slope, Hemas National Park, Ladakh, India. Winner of the Long Lens catergory in the Melvita Nature Images Awards competition 2014.

Snow leopard walking down a snow covered slope in Hemas National Park, Ladakh, India © Ben Cranke/Nature Picture Library/Getty

5

Coping with the cold

A snow leopard’s nose is well adapted to deal with the cold – a short but wide nasal cavity heats the freezing air prior to it reaching the lungs.

6

Fierce felines

These cats are able to jump as far as 15m and can take down prey three times their weight.

7

No roar

 Unlike most other felines, snow leopards are unable to roar because they have different, less developed vocal chords than other leopards and big cats.

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Snow leopard in Tibet © Thomas Kitchin Victoria Hurst/Getty

8

Mountain ghosts

Because they are such elusive creatures people living within their range and studying them often refer to them as the ‘ghosts of the mountains’.

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9

Threats and decline

There are only about 6,000 individuals left in the wild. Snow leopard numbers have declined by 20 per cent in the last 20 years due to to poaching and habitat loss. Snow leopards were previously classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, but were reclassified as Vulnerable in 2017.