The snow leopard is a felid in the genus Panthera native to the hilly ranges of South and Central Asia. Sadly, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because the snow leopard population is calculated to number fewer than 10,000 mature alive and is expected to decrease about 10% by 2040. It is threatened by habitat destruction and poaching following infrastructural developments in hilly areas. It inhabits subalpine and alpine zones at elevations from 9,800 to 14,800 ft (3,000 to 4,500 m), ranging from the Himalayas, eastern Afghanistan and the Tibetan Plateau to southern China, Mongolia, and western Siberia.
What does Snow Leopard eat?
The snow leopard is a known carnivore and hunts its prey. Its preferred wild prey species are Himalayan blue sheep, Himalayan tahr, argali, markhor, and wild goat. It also preys on hilly domestic livestock. It prefers meals ranging in weight from 79 to 168 lb (36 to 76 kg) but also takes down smaller mammals such as Himalayan marmot, vole, and pika species. The diet of the present-day snow leopard varies across the season and its range and depends on prey availability. In the Indian Himalayas, it preys mostly on Siberian ibex, Himalayan blue sheep, white-bellied musk deer, and wild boar. In the Karakoram, Altai, the Tian Shan, and Mongolia’s Tost Mountains, its principal prey consists of Thorold’s deer, Siberian ibex, Siberian roe deer, and argali.
Hunting Mechanism – Snow Leopard
Snow leopards favor ambushing prey from above, using cracked terrain to hide their approach. They will actively track prey down precipitous mountainsides, using the impulse of their initial leap to trail animals for up to 980 ft ( 300 m). They kill with a fierce bite to the neck and may draw the prey to a secure location before feeding. They consume all consumable parts of the carcass and live on a single Himalayan blue sheep for two weeks before going for a hunt again. Annual prey needs appear to be 20–30 adult blue sheep.
The snow leopard is skilled and capable of taking down most animals in its range, with the likely exception of the full-grown male yak. It also consumes a vital amount of vegetation, including twigs and grass. Snow leopards have been reported to hunt in pairs firmly, particularly mating pairs. The snow leopard has not been recorded to strike humans. It is quickly driven away from livestock and readily leaves kills, often without defending itself.