While other big cats have golden eyes, the snow leopard's eyes are gray or green. Announcing our NEW encyclopedia for Kids! , Climate change The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is a rare big cat adapted to life in a cold, harsh environment. Snow leopards are also the apex predator of their habitat and usually predate on mountain sheep and goats. They also eat grass, twigs, and other vegetation. … In many areas the snow leopard’s living space is being destroyed or broken up because of the activities of people – for instance grazing livestock. The snow leopard’s tail is about 80 – 100 cm in length as against its body length of 48 – 60 cm, making it nearly twice the length of its body length. Formerly classified as Leo uncia, the snow leopard has been placed—with the lion, tiger, and other big cats—in the genus Panthera. Corrections? Habitat loss is another significant threat to the snow leopard. Very little is known about them, but we know that they are threatened by habitat deterioration, poaching and conflict with people, with climate change adding additional pressure. At that point, the young cats travel great distances to seek their new home. Their wild prey has decreased as herding and ranching activities have expanded throughout their geographic range. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. Male snow leopards are larger than females, but they have a similar appearance. Climate change is an emerging threat. Its short muzzle and small ears also help the animal conserve heat. They are often killed by herders and ranchers whose livestock they have taken, and their bones and hides are sought after by hunters and poachers for the illegal animal trade. Because of the presence of certain skeletal features, such as having a shorter skull and having more-rounded eye orbits than other big cats, the snow leopard has also been classified by some authorities as the sole member of the genus Uncia. The elegant and well-camouflaged snow leopard is one of the world’s most elusive cats. They’re usually at home in high, rugged mountain landscapes at heights of over 3,000 metres – and climate change may shrink their available habitat. Snow leopards have pretty long tails—which is probably one of many useful adaptations for surviving in cold habitats. The snow leopard inhabits the mountains of central Asia and the Indian subcontinent, ranging from an elevation of about 1,800 metres (about 6,000 feet) in the winter to about 5,500 metres (18,000 feet) in the summer. Help us protect the beautiful, rare, elusive snow leopard and its environment. Global warming increases the altitude of the tree line, diminishing the range of the cat and its prey. The snow leopard has short legs, a stocky body, and an extremely long, bushy tail, which it can curl over its face to stay warm. However, in 2017 the species’ status was changed to “vulnerable” after a population calculation error was discovered in the species’ 2008 population assessment. We use cookies to analyse how visitors use our website and to help us provide the best possible experience for users. An assessment in 2016 estimated a population between 2,710 to 3,386 mature individuals remaining in the wild, with a decreasing population trend. Snow leopards are sparsely distributed across 12 countries in central Asia, from southern Russia down to the Tibetan plateau, including Mongolia, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. Adopt a snow leopard now. Snow leopards are between 86 – 125 cm (34 – 50 inches) long – and that’s not including the tail. Also unlike other big cats, the snow leopard cannot roar. Usually they are solitary, but pairs have been known to hunt together. We’re working with communities in the high mountains of the Kangchenjunga conservation area in Nepal to help manage and reduce conflict between snow leopards and people. Omissions? The average snow leopard weighs between 22 and 55 kg (49 to 121 lb). Because their natural prey are also in decline, snow leopards sometimes eat local livestock, which can result in the farmers killing them in retaliation. While they are adapted to traverse rocky terrain and snow, snow leopards will follow trails made by people and animals if they are available. By protecting the rare snow leopard we’re also helping to protect its whole environment. Sign up to be kept informed about our conservation work and how you can help such as fundraising, campaigning and events.