Where Do Snow Leopards Live?

Snow leopards have evolved to live in the harshest conditions on earth. They scale the large, steep slopes of mountains in Central Asia with ease, blending into the landscape. But these majestic and elusive cats face many threats, including habitat loss and degradation from climate change and human encroachment, retaliatory killings due to human-animal conflict, reduced prey, and poaching.

WWF is working to reduce human-wildlife conflict, increase anti-poaching efforts, and protect fragile snow leopard habitat.

Here’s a look at what you should know about the species:

Where do snow leopards live?

Snow leopards live in a vast area in the high mountains of northern and central Asia, including the Himalayan region. In the Himalayas, snow leopards live in high alpine areas, usually above the tree line and up to 18,000 feet in elevation. They occur in 12 countries-including China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Russia, and Mongolia.

What do snow leopards look like?

Snow leopards have thick gray and yellow colored fur, with solid patches on the head, neck and lower limbs and rosettes over the rest of the body. Rosettes are large rings that enclose smaller patches. WWF relies on spot patterns in camera trap surveys to identify individual snow leopards. Snow leopards also have very long, thick tails that they wrap around their bodies for balancing on rocks and protection from the cold. Their short front legs and long hind legs make them very agile and they can jump up to 50 feet. They also have large, furry paws that act as both snowshoes and padding on sharp rocks.

What do snow leopards eat?

Snow leopards are capable of killing prey up to three times their own weight. They eat blue sheep, argali – wild sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas, deer and other small mammals. The animals that snow leopards normally hunt-like argali sheep-are also hunted by local communities. Because their natural prey is harder to find, snow leopards are often forced to kill livestock for survival, which in many cases leads to retaliation against snow leopards by local farmers or herders.

Why are snow leopards important?

Snow leopards play a key role both as a predator and as an indicator of the health of their high-altitude habitat. When snow leopards thrive, so will countless other species.

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