Snow leopards have a smoky grey body that fades to white on their bellies with solid spots covering their lower limbs, head and neck. Rosettes, large rings around spots, cover the remainder of their bodies. They also have extremely long tails that are used for balance and very thick furs for the cold climate in which they live. Snow leopards are found in cold mountain ranges throughout Central Asia. The Himalayan Mountains are the best place to find them, though you can find them as well in the Altai Mountains and the Hindu Kush. These carnivores are at the top of the food chain in their ecosystems and have been known to prey on other animals in their environments as well as domestic livestock.
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Hunting Its Prey
Snow leopards are carnivores and prefer to hunt when the sun rises and when the sun sets. The snow leopard is a solitary creature, and has characteristics much like that of a tiger. Snow leopards hunt alone. In fact, during mating season, from December to March, is the only time snow leopards pair or occupy an area as a group. They do not hunt in packs or in groups to take down their prey.
A Meal at Last
Snow leopards stalk their prey for ambush or attack. Snow leopards are well muscled, and can leap great distances--up to 20 feet vertically and up to 50 feet horizontally. The snow leopard has been known to hunt an animal two to three times its size. It takes a snow leopard approximately three to five days to consume a large prey feeding on the abdomen, thighs, and chest of their prey. They generally stay with their meal to keep vultures and other scavengers away.
Top of the Food Chain
These carnivores are at the top of the food chain in their ecosystem, and are known predators. While snow leopards are carnivores, they have been known to eat plants, especially around mating season. These nocturnal cats will pretty much eat whatever is available. However, they prefer to eat blue sheep, ibex and marmots. A snow leopards menu can include: wild pigs, goats, sheep, hares, rodents, and even birds.
Domestic Live Stock
Snow leopards have been found to even feast on the domestic livestock of sheep, goats, horses, and cattle. In the harsh winter months, it becomes difficult to find food sources due to the deep snow and subzero temperatures. During the winter months snow leopards will travel down the mountain and into farmlands to claim the live stock of farmers. They do not harm humans, and will usually runaway when seen, leaving their prey behind.
Unfortunately, snow leopards are an endangered species. These animals are being hunted by poachers for their pelts. While there are several organisations and laws that try to protect snow leopards, many are killed each year to make fur coats to sell on the black markets. So, even though they are at the top of the food chain, the snow leopards are drastically reducing in number each year.
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