Prowling over steep terrain of cliffs, ridges, gullies, and rocky outcrops, snow leopards are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. They prefer the solitary life, but aren’t unsociable. Their home ranges, which can span up to 50 square miles, often overlap. To find one another or advertise their presence, snow leopards leave scents along their routes, or scrape boulders and tree trunks with their claws. These distinct signals help the cats mark off their ranges. For their dens, snow leopards typically choose crevices or rocky caverns.
Snow leopards are carnivorous and eat mountain goats, mountain sheep, deer, boars, and small mammals. They stalk or ambush their prey. They also consume some livestock, which can lead to fatal confrontations with humans.
Between 1 and 5 cubs are born from April to June in dens lined with their mother’s fur. They weigh less than a pound at birth and remain with their mother for at least a year and through their first winter. Siblings may remain together for some time following their independence from mom. Snow leopards live around 20 years.
Some of My Neighbors
Marco Polo sheep, Ibex, Saiga antelope, Gray wolf, Desert dormouse, Golden eagle, Steppe eagle, Saker falcon
Population Status & Threats
The snow leopard is endangered, with a very high risk of extinction in the wild due to habitat loss, poaching, and dwindling populations of their prey. An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 remain in the wild, and their population continues to decline. Hunters target the rare leopard for its pelt and bones, which are used in traditional Chinese medicines. Persecution by pastoralists is also a threat.
WCS Conservation Efforts
Their cryptic nature, large home ranges, and small population densities make these spotted cats hard to spot. So WCS monitors snow leopard density through camera “traps”—remote cameras that photograph snow leopard passersby in the wild, without any disturbance to the animals. This will help ensure that any changes in the population of snow leopards are detectable. WCS conservationists are currently working to protect snow leopards and their prey in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, western China, and the Diamer District of northern Pakistan.