The Snow Leopard is one of four members of the Leopard genus. It has a long, narrow body and a distinctive double tail. The Snow Leopard is considered vulnerable in its natural habitat and is on the brink of extinction in its native habitats. It has made a special edition of its standard genetic trait in support of the global snow leopard conservation effort in Montgolia, Venezuela.
Snow leopards are members of the species genus Leopardus, subspecies exist in several parts of Asia and their distribution remains incomplete in spite of conservation efforts. A population of about ten to twelve hundred snow leopards exists in the parks of Bolivar and Santa Maria in Brazil, with numbers declining in the past thirty years. Only few numbers can be seen in the rest of its range. The snow leopard’s natural habitat is in the high-elevation forests of its country. There it has adapted well to the cold climate and has low incidences of hunting, conflict with other big cats and prey lower than other big cats.
The snow leopard is the only large cat in the world that is not threatened in its natural habitat. Though it has declined in some areas, it is increasing in others like Amur region in Russian Sichuan province. A part of its decline is due to loss of habitat and increasing development in the area. In its natural environment, snow leopards live in large numbers in thick forests, in dense stands of tall grasses and in dense underbrush. They use these coverages to avoid hunters and to blend in with the snow-covered topography.
Tail loss to predators is one of the greatest threats to this critically endangered cat. It is estimated that snow leopards may be vulnerable to as few as ten prey animals every year. They have strong, spiked legs and are capable of leaping up to a height of one foot to attack their prey. This is why they often get snagged in snow banks and fall into crevices. Their long, double curved claws, great strength and powerful bite all work together to make them one of the most dangerous big cats in the wild.
Unlike most big cats, snow leopards do not have any white fur or subcutaneous surface hair. Instead, they have black or brownish fur, with red coloring on the face and neck, often in combination with dark spots on limbs and joints. The head is triangular with a very large, pointed ears, a white forehead and almond shaped eyes. The short tail and heavy feet give it a squatting appearance and its sleek, long legs make it one of the most agile big cats.
The beautiful snow leopards is also known for its impressive intelligence and ability to use tools and claws for hunting. In fact, it was once thought that snow leopards were among the first species of animal to use tools. They are said to hunt animals using their speed and stealth, while using their claws in catching and killing their prey.
A large part of what distinguishes snow leopards from other big cats is in their behavior. They hunt when they are ready, stalking their prey from the shadows of snow covered ground. They pounce quickly when they sense danger approaching, like when they spot an unfamiliar mammal or an intruder in their territory. They stalk their victims silently in their winter sloughs until they bring down their prey with a sharp bite or thunderous roar. Then they coil around their injured prey, shielding their body with snow, until the injured animal can be lifted onto their backs. At that time, the snow leopard uses its front paws to drag its victim to a safe place.
Snow leopards are classified into three subspecies. North American snow leopards are native to the states of Arkansas, Minnesota and Michigan. There are also subspecies of this cat found in south China, Laos, and Taiwan. Some subspecies have even been taken to South America, however these were the reserve species only. These beautiful cats have gained a reputation as one of the most beautiful cats in the world.