Karma Cats

  • SNOW LEOPARDS - Uncia unciaSNOW LEOPARDS - Uncia uncia
  • SNOW LEOPARDS - Uncia unciaSNOW LEOPARDS - Uncia uncia

SNOW LEOPARDS - Uncia uncia

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Subspecies

Uncia uncia uncia - Asia, Mongolia, Russia
Uncia uncial uncioides - China, Himalayas

   

Distribution

Native:
Central Asia - Afghanistan; Bhutan; China (Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, Tibet [or Xizang], Xinjiang,); India (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu-Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttaranchal); Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Mongolia; Nepal; Pakistan; Russian Federation; Tajikistan; Uzbekistan

 

Regionally Extinct:
Yunnan (in China)

 

Presence Uncertain;
Nei Mongol (in China)

   

Population

3,500 – 5,000 (wild)
600 (captive)

   

Status

Endangered

   

Physical
Description

  • Snow leopards are a medium sized stocky cat with a very long bushy tail and huge front paws
  • Pale green or grey eyes, short rounded ears and smoky grey fur with dark rosettes
  • Each snow leopard’s coat patterns are unique like our fingerprints
  • In winter, their fur can grow to over 5 cms in length on their back and sides, and up to 12 cms on their stomach
  • A very agile cat with their long tail and muscular legs allowing them to jump up to 6m
   

Size

Head and body length: 90cm – 1.2m      
Tail length: 80cm – 1m        
Weight: 35 – 55 kgs       

   

Life Span

Wild: 15 – 18 years
Captivity: 21

   

Breeding

Gestation 94 - 103 days (3 – 3.5 months)
Sexual maturity 2 – 3 years of age but generally do not reproduce until 4 years old
Oestrus 5 -12 days
Mating

Occurs in late winter (January – March)
Lasts 3 – 6 days, 12 – 36 matings a day, each mating lasts approx 15 - 45sec

Male holds the female by the back of the neck giving a loud yowl when completed
Birth Cubs born in spring (May - June)
Cubs

1 - 5 per litter (average 2.2)
320 – 560 grams at birth
Cubs born blind but open their eyes around 7 days

Dependant Dependant on Mum until at least 18 months old

 

  • The snow leopard is different to other cat species in that it has a pronounced seasonal birth peak which is probably due to the harsh winters they experience in their natural habitat
  • Also unusual to most cats, if their litter dies, the females will rarely come back into oestrus and re-mate until the following season
  • Females give birth in rocky dens that they have lined with their thick, soft fur
   

Diet & Hunting

  • Snow leopards’ main prey consists of bharal (blue sheep), ibex (wild goat) and argali (wild sheep) but they will eat prey as small as marmots, hares and birds such as the snow cock
  • Will hunt domestic livestock such as sheep, goats and cows
  • Will eat carrion (dead and rotting carcass of an animal)
  • Uses rocks, ledges, crevices etc. for cover to get close enough to ambush prey
  • Often drops on prey from a ledge above
  • Chase of prey may last up to 200 – 300m
  • Ambush predator that kills with a bite to the back of the neck or throat
  • May move kill to an area away from scavengers
  • Will eat from one carcass for a few days if large enough
  • Captive snow leopards eat approximately 1.5kgs of meat per day
   

Habitat

  • High mountainous regions of central Asia
  • Rocky areas at altitudes of 1,200m – 6,000m
  • Snow capped mountains
  • Rock specialists – rocks, ravines, cliffs
  • Snow leopards have evolved physically to adapt to these mountainous conditions;
    • Large paws for walking on snow
    • Long, thick, bushy tail for balance and to wrap around their body and face in the snow
    • Long back legs for jumping
    • Long fur with woolen undercoat to keep them warm
    • Enlarged nasal passages and well developed chest to cope with the cold and altitude
   

Social System & Territories

  • Solitary animals that only come together to breed, or a mother with cubs
  • Range sizes vary depending on prey density (20km2 to 100km2)
  • Scent mark their territories with cheek rubbing, faeces, scrapes, urine and spray (urine with scent gland secretions which is sprayed on rocks, trees, bushes)
  • Flehmen – allows olfactory & chemical clues to pass over naso-vomeral organ positioned in the roof of the mouth
  • Most active dawn and dusk
  • Can not purr and is the only big cat that can not give a full deep roar (can only cough-roar)
  • Can spit, hiss, growl, mew, yowl and prusten (chuff)
  • Snow leopards are one of the least aggressive of the big cats
   

Threats

  • Loss of natural prey – competition with local people
  • Local farmers kill snow leopards as they often hunt their livestock
  • Poaching for bones and body parts for traditional Asian medicines
  • Poaching for pelts
  • Global warming is changing their habitat and prey location
  • Humans and wolves are their main competitors
  • Full CITES protection (Appendix I)
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