Snow leopard habitat

Snow leopard habitat

Local people sharing snow leopard habitat, Altai, Russia.

Local herder families sharing snow leopard habitat, Altai, Russia. Photo Biosphere Expeditions.

Everyone is intrigued by snow leopard habitat because home for these cats is such remote and rugged locations. Snow leopard habitat covers about 2 million square kilometres in 12 countries across the majestic Himalayan Mountains and the mountains of Central Asia.

The 12 countries are Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Each country, although different in culture and history, shares snow leopard habitat characteristics such as mountains with steep slopes dotted by rocky bluffs, ridges broken by outcrops, and valleys interrupted by cliffs. Snow leopards love this sort of habitat because it provides them with good cover to hide amongst rocks and cliffs when hunting.

Mountains of Nepal, snow leopard habitat.

Mountains of Nepal, villages in snow leopard habitat. Photo by Sibylle Noras.

Most snow leopard habitat is also at very high altitudes. They live between 3000 – 4500 m (9800 – 14,800′) and sometimes hunt wild prey like argali and ibex as high as 5500 m (18,000′) in the summer. Living in these high altitudes is another reason why snow leopards are so rarely seen. It is hard work for researchers and biologists to get to these altitudes where climbing in thin air is difficult and the extreme cold can be challenging even for the very fit. Local people who live in villages in the mountains and share snow leopard habitat tend to live below 3000 meters for these reasons.

Personal snow leopard habitat.

Rocky landscape gives snow leopards cover when hunting prey in their habitat.

Rocky landscape gives snow leopards cover when hunting prey in their habitat. Photo by Bishnu Devkota.

Individual snow leopards like to stay in a well-defined home range but according to researchers they don’t defend their territory aggressively when encroached upon by other snow leopards.  Nor will they defend the territory against wolves. Researchers say the relationship between snow leopards and wolves is the same as cats and dogs. A snow leopard will not defend its food but will give it up to wolves in the same way a cat will usually give up to a dog. Snow leopards are generally shy, even within their own species and will only seek out other snow leopards during mating season.

Most of what we know about snow leopard habitat and the way the cats live in their habitat comes from the successful radio collar projects run by the Snow Leopard Conservancy and the Snow Leopard Trust. The studies have shown some snow leopards cover up to 30 or 40 kilometers of their habitat daily searching for prey.

Mongolia snow leopard habitat.

Snow leopards like rocks in Afghanistan mountains.

Snow leopards like rocks in Afghanistan mountains. Photo Wildlife Conservation Society.

In Mongolia the snow leopard can be found in flat country, especially if rock ridges and ledges provide protective travel routes, and outcrops provide sufficient cover. During winter the cats will often descend to lower elevations in search of prey, but in summer they move back up the mountain to the steepest and most remote terrain. Some parts of snow leopard habitat, such as the massifs of the Gobi Desert of Mongolia are virtually devoid of vegetation.

Nepal snow leopard habitat.

In Nepal all snow leopard habitat is in the beautiful Himalayan Mountains in areas like Sagarmatha National park near Everest and Mustang in the western part of the country. Where prey is abundant, there may be between 5 to 10 cats sharing an area of 100 square km. But in regions where prey animals are scarce 5 cats would need an area of 1,000 square km to find enough prey animals to live on.

China snow leopard habitat.

Map showing snow leopard habitat in Asia.

Map showing snow leopard habitat in Asia. Map by Wikipedia.

China has almost 60% of the world’s snow leopard habitat in the areas like Xinjiang which is a huge, sparsely populated region of over 1.6 million square kilomteres (about one sixth of the China’s territory) and shares a border with the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Afghanistan snow leopard habitat.

Many years of war in Afghanistan have had a bad impact on snow leopard habitat in that country. Remote mountain areas have been taken over by all sides in the war with human movement in mountain areas that the cats and their prey previously had to themselves.

Humans sharing snow leopard habitat.

Snow leopard proof livestock corrals.

Building snow leopard proof livestock corrals where snow leopard habitat is shared with herders and their sheep. Photo by SLC in India.

One of the main reasons for the decreasing number of snow leopards in the wild is that unfortunately humans have a negative impact on the snow leopard habitat. Local people often have herds of domestic livestock driving wild sheep and goats (the snow leopard’s main prey) out of the habitat area. Sadly hunting is still an option for some local people who may not have many other ways of earning income. The main conflict however between humans and the cats in shared snow leopard habitat is when snow leopards kill village livestock and villagers will retaliate to protect their stock.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Max April 19, 2011 at 11:43 am

I have seen a snow leopard book about Leo which is very little snow leopard and a goat herder found him.

kj December 7, 2011 at 6:21 am

i just love snow leopards and i am doing a research project on them if u have ny other facts please let me know thank you

Saeko March 21, 2012 at 5:21 am

doing a school project and am very interested in big cats thanks for the info and if you get any thing new please email me

lou March 23, 2012 at 5:06 am

Thank you for this information I would love to know more , this has helped me with my homework and I hope this bueatiful creature lives on and not to be hunted

k May 3, 2012 at 4:00 am

thanks for helping these creatures every day i appreciate it. My class is doing an endangered animals report im doing the snow leopard once again thanks.

rosie rose June 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

this is great information I do fund raising and i think this would be a great animal to raise money for I am interested in snow leopards and I hope that everyone helps to save the graceful beautiful animal will survive this rocky ride.

Aneesha Kulasingham December 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I love snow leopards, they are my favourite animal!!!! Thank you for tring to save snow leopards!!! You are a really good company!!!!!

Sibylle January 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm

thanks Aneesha for supporting snow leopards. We are glad they are your favorite animal. Best regards, Sibylle Noras, Founder and Publisher, “Saving Snow Leopards” website.

surya May 18, 2013 at 9:15 am

snow leopards are my faviorate animals i atcully am trying to type a book on them,“the elusive snow leopard hope you save the amazing cat!

Khenrab December 3, 2013 at 1:51 am

I am forester and really concern of snow leopard extinction as of creasing no.people moving up to high altitude areas to collect Ophiocordyceps. Foresters must work hard to conserve snow leopard especially during the Ophiocordyceps collection.But with the limited fund demotivated the forester to do the patrolling within snow leopard habitat ranges 4800m to 5200m above the sea level. Foresters were really need of good quality sleeping bag so that we can get halt at less than 10degree C and can able to monitor the snowleopard habitat successfully. Therefore,snow leopard concerned person may help us to monitor the habitat of snow leopard and lets preserve the snow leopard for future.

Miranda May 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm

This is some very useful information and it helped me with my Endangered Species Report for science. I do understand that it is endangered but i sure would like to have one of them on my wall so i can look at it every day. They are so beautiful!!!!!! Thank you very much!!!!!!!

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