Closely related to the tiger, there are two subspecies of snow leopard. They have a number of physical characteristics that make them very well adapted to their habitat. For example, they have yellow tinged smokey-grey long fur with black rosettes and spots, which camouflage them perfectly. They also have front legs that are shorter than their back legs making them particularly agile and a tail that can be a metre long to aid balance.
Snow leopards are usually solitary and mostly active at dawn and dusk. Unlike other big cats snow leopards cannot roar, when individuals meet they will greet each other with chuffing sounds. Males and females will overlap their hunting territories but males will not tolerate another male in their area. They are opportunistic hunters able to capture prey three times their weight.
Breeding season runs from January to mid-March. Individuals will make a moaning call to attract a mate. Females will first breed at two to three years old and give birth in a cave lined with her own fur. They will remain here for 18-22 months.
Their diet consists of both large and small animals including bharal sheep, ibex and marmots. Unlike other cat species they will also eat a large amount of vegetation especially around mating season.
Prey availability is the main issue for snow leopards. Local people also hunt bharal sheep and when numbers run low the leopards have to resort to hunting farmed species. Local people will often kill the leopards in retribution. Poaching and illegal trade are also serious issues.