Snow LeopardThe Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia), sometimes known as the Ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of central and southern Asia. The taxonomic position of this species has been subject to change. In the past, many taxonomists included the Snow Leopard in the genus Panthera, with several of the other largest felids, but later it was placed in its own genus, Uncia. However, most recent molecular studies place the species firmly within the genus Panthera, although the exact position remains unclear. Along with the Clouded Leopard, it represents an intermediate between so-called big cats and smaller species, as it cannot roar, despite possessing a cartilaginous hyoid apparatus which is thought essential in allowing the big cats to roar.
Well known for its beautiful fur, the Snow Leopard has a whitish-tan coat with ringed spots of dark, ashy-brown and rosettes of black . The fur turns white in the winter. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against snow and cold. The life span of a Snow Leopard is normally 15-18 years, but in captivity they can live up to 20 years.
DescriptionWeighing 35 to 55 kilograms (77-121 lbs), the Snow Leopard can be distinguished from other similar species by its proportionately longer tail, which helps it maintain its balance on the rugged terrain and unstable surfaces of its habitat. The Snow Leopard's tail also doubles as a warmth cover and is used to cover its nose and mouth in very cold conditions. The male's head is usually much squarer and wider than that of the female. Its big furry feet act as snowshoes, like those of the lynxes. In summer, the Snow Leopard usually lives above the tree line on mountainous meadows and in rocky regions at an altitude of up to 6000 m. In winter, it comes down into the forests at an altitude of about 2000 m. It leads largely a solitary life, although mothers can rear cubs for extended periods of time in cave dens in the mountains.
The Snow Leopard has grey-and-white fur with numerous rosettes on the flanks and spots on the head and neck, similar to the Jaguar. Its tail is striped and can reach up to 90 cm long. It is an opportunistic feeder, eating whatever meat it can find; it often kills animals three times its size, including domestic livestock.It ambushes prey from above when possible, as it can jump as far as 14 meters (46 feet). Its agility often proves helpful when ambushing prey and traversing through mountains. Its diet consists of ibexes, the Bharal, the Markhor, the Urial, boars, as well as marmots and other small rodents.
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