photo by Dingopup via Creative Commons
Endangered Species Spotlight: Snow Leopard
SPECIES: Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia)
CURRENT RANGE: Mountain Ranges of Central Asia
CURRENT THREATS: Poaching, Loss of Prey, Conflict with local ranchers and shepherds
CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: The Himalayas, various mountain ranges in China, Russia & Mongolia
What Is It?
Typically living in alpine and subalpine areas anywhere from 10,000-22,000 feet above sea level, Snow Leopards are a bit smaller than the world’s other big cats, generally weighing 60-120 pounds and measuring just 30-50 inches from the head to the base of the tail. Like feline Hobbits, these beauties are short-legged and stocky, with bodies custom built for the harsh environments in which they dwell. Their fur is thick to protect against the bitter cold; their very long (31-39 inch) tails help maintain balance on rocky mountainous terrain and wrap around their faces like a blanket when they sleep; their paws are wide and have fur on the undersides (like big, hairy snowshoes); their ears are small and rounded to help minimize heat loss; and their nasal cavities are huge to breathe better in thin, cold air. Perhaps most interestingly, the Snow Leopard cannot roar at all, but instead hisses, chuffs, mews, growls and wails.